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Pro Sports and the ‘Pink’ Problem

By: Steve Orbanek
First Published: October 5, 2020
Topics: Faculty, In the News, Research, Sport, STHM School

New research from Katie Sveinson of Temple’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management outlines how pink clothing does not resonate with female sports fans

Peruse through the women’s clothing section on the online shops of almost any major professional sports team, and chances are that you’ll see a familiar sight: pink and overly feminine clothing.

Old-school gender color stereotypes suggest that women sports fans are likely to enjoy pink-colored clothing, but new research from Katie Sveinson of Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) tells another story.

Recently published in Sport Management Review, Sveinson’s article “‘If people are wearing pink stuff they’re probably not real fans’: Exploring women’s perceptions of sport fan clothing,” outlines how pink clothing can actually elicit negative reactions among women sports fans. Co-authored by Larena Hoeber and Kim Toffoletti, the study shows that the fandom of someone who wears pink or overtly feminine clothing is actually often brought into question.

“My research is predominantly on women sports fans and that’s because we know sports fandom is typically a male-dominated area. This research really started because I wanted to look at how women experience fandom,” said Sveinson, who is an assistant professor in the sport and recreation management department of STHM. “The purpose was never to look at clothing, but that organically came up during conversations. Very early on, we realized that women sports fans have some pretty negative feelings toward pink and extremely feminine clothing.”

As part of the study, Sveinson and her colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with 16 diehard women professional sports fans. Some of the most telling findings to emerge from the conversations include:

  • While there are now more women’s clothing lines for sports teams, participants felt there was a lack of options.
  • The traditional colors for a team are often not available in women’s sizes.
  • Many participants often instead choose to purchase smaller men’s or kid’s sizes to find a clothing they would like to wear.
  • Among the 16 participants, 12 expressed a definite dislike for pink clothing for women sport fans, because it’s not an official color of the team.

Participants also were opposed to some of the other ways that manufacturers choose to stereotype when creating women clothing items.

“For the participants that we spoke to, they don’t want the hearts, the stars or the glitter. They don’t want unique colors for women, either,” Sveinson said. “They’re not even really looking for different types of cuts. They want items that are in team colors, and they really just want gender-neutral clothing that is available in sizes that fit women’s bodies.”

The study is especially relevant as the calendar turns to October. Every year during this month, a number of pink-themed items are released in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Susan G. Komen. Though pink merchandise is still available all year round. 

“Participants all supported the cause and recognized that pink clothing is often a representation of that,” Sveinson said. “However, many fans provided alternative options to bring awareness, such as including the breast cancer pink ribbon on team-colored clothing items to demonstrate support without having to disassociate from the team’s colors.” 

About the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management

Established in 1998, the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) at Temple University has a distinguished tradition preparing leaders in the sport, recreation, tourism and hospitality industries. 

Thoroughly committed to providing student-centered education and professional development relevant to today’s thriving sport, tourism and hospitality industry — STHM integrates applicable, real-world experience into the curriculum and classroom through its global network of industry partners and well-connected alumni network. Our award-winning faculty and cutting-edge research institutes engage in pioneering research, informing business practices and providing students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in these fast-growing industries.  

The School offers undergraduate degree programs in sport and recreation management and tourism and hospitality management; traditional graduate degree programs in sport business, and hospitality management; and two online graduate degree programs in executive sport business and travel and tourism. STHM also offers a PhD program in business administration with a concentration in tourism and sport.