Finally the NFL and the Chicago Bears have realized what we’ve known for a long time: female football fans exist! With the NFL’s recent onslaught of improved and relevant marketing initiatives geared toward the female demographic, medicine female fans should appreciate the fact that teams and the league have finally begun to realize we respond to different messaging.
An example of how to cater to the female fan was on full display when the Chicago Bears hosted their Meijer Football 101 event on Tuesday night at Soldier Field. The annual event drew more than 700 female fans to the field for a night dedicated to the Chicago Bears legacy and the women that love it.
If you’ve never been to this gathering of Bears female fans, you will definitely want to put it on your radar for next year. Here’s why:
Women enjoyed taking in the sights of Soldier Field without the normal craziness and crowds of a game day Sunday (or men, for that matter). Vendors ranging from Absolut to Verizon Wireless were on site for sampling and product information.
Women of all demographics were in attendance and their favorite apparel was in full force. Apparel stores inside the United Club were also open, enabling female fans to pick-up the latest gear.
Some women donned jerseys (we saw: Forte, Cutler, Marshall, Urlacher and even a couple of Knox) and others took their fashion fandom to a whole new level. Sara of Crystal Lake has made the trek to Soldier Field for Football 101 over six times and she came prepared with her very own “#34 Sweetness stilettos”. Talk about the best Sportsanista look of the night!
Tours of the Bears locker room and Soldier Field concourse were also highlights of the evening. While we passed on the autographs (sorry rooks), we weren’t going to miss a tour of iconic Soldier Field.
As we passed along the 100 level concourse, we stopped for pictures as our guide took questions from fans. My personal favorite: Why doesn’t the Chicago Park District fix this field already? Afterward, we were led down into the Bears locker room. I was as giddy as a school girl knowing that all the great Bears have walked in the same setting and dressed for game day.
Equipment coaches were also on hand with a demo table – showing off their gear in the middle of the locker room and almost all the lockers were empty – except for Brandon Marshall’s – with full gear on display for viewing… and modeling of course.
From the locker room, we headed through the tunnel out onto the field. It was breathtakingly overwhelming, I could never imagine what it would feel like on game day… stadium packed, lights on running out onto that massive field (that always appears much smaller to the viewer).
Although you couldn’t pass the yellow rope, being on the field and looking up into the stands was a view I will never forget. (Also, I give Forte mad props for running the field – five yards doesn’t seem like much on TV but when you’re on the field you realize that MAN, it is a lot.)
We had the pleasure of meeting new Bears sideline reporter, Lyndsay Petruny. The Pittsburgh native recently made the move to Chicago and is now a co-host on the Chicago Bears Network (CBN) new entertaining digital program, Inside the Bears as well as a reporter for Bears GameDay Live that airs on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. on FOX32News.
I can’t help but think the Bears are catering to more women with programming like Inside the Bears. A perfect dose of lifestyle entertainment and insider access with Bears news, this is a weekly must-hit and one of the new digital programs the Bears have launched on their owned and operated Chicago Bears Network which is produced in house at the studios in Halas Hall.
“It’s been great walking around here tonight among these passionate female fans and I’m excited because many women have come up to me and recognized me from Inside the Bears, which is great to see that women are watching,” said Petruny. “We’ve done some great segments, some really heartfelt stuff that fans will love. We just wrapped up an interview with Virginia McCaskey, we’ve talked to William “the Fridge” Perry, we talk to fans on the street…it’s great to see that fans are watching.”
After the tours and autograph signing commenced, women were invited for the Meijer Bears Football 101 workshop where Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer emceed a panel of rookies and surprise guest, Josh McCown.
Beyond the questions of “Boxers or briefs?” and “Show us your touchdown dance!” (along with repeated screams for Jon Bostic to “TAKE OFF HIS SHIRT!”) there were some great questions that helped further female football knowledge like, “Who does your playing style resemble/emulate?”, “What is a west coast offense; do we have one?” and “How have you prepared for the NFL?”.
One of my favorite questions of the night was geared to McCown and it obviously touched on the Cutler injury debacle and McCown’s recent victory against the Packers. McCown was poised and classy with his response reiterating that while he never wants to see a player injured, he’s excited about his opportunity and hopes continue to be a team player and contribute to a winning Bear’s team. (He also claims there is no “bromance” with Cutler – as he’s not sure how to define that term – and while yes, they are friends, it is strictly a working relationship on the field.)
As a first time attendee, I can honestly say even as an avid and aware female Bears fan, I think this event is a good bet for any woman that loves the Bears. You don’t have to be a football fanatic to appreciate an event of this caliber. Not only do you get access to areas of Soldier Field that most fans can only dream of, attendees get the chance to really connect with the team and the brand along with hundreds of fellow females that share your passion.
While I know the event is labeled as Football 101 – I definitely think the Bears could take it to the next level and offer a few basic and advanced courses to cater to both female novice fans and aficionados. Once the Bears and the NFL realize that they must take their marketing message to women even further – that one blanket message to her won’t cut it – then I think the opportunity to host truly impactful female targeted events that actually move the needle, will be a reality.