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When 'But' & 'No' are the massive menacing Kraken to the chained Phoenix that is woman's sports.

By Jackie Heinricher

I recently wrote to my friend Mark that read this in part.

"I'm contacting my friends and contacts seeking some help if possible. I've been working hard to field a car in the major league of Motorsports, Indycar. Not easy for a highly qualified and storied female team owner. I could write a fat book with the simple title "no."

I go on to relate how I achieved getting a partner only to be ghosted when the funding came due, leaving the team in a challenging situation.

Part of Mark's reply "you should write that book; it would be a best seller." He was kind enough to invite me to write a short piece for his blog.

Though I was looking to enlist friends for help, anyone that would listen to perhaps come to the rescue, I know better. One response was “nobody likes desperation.” Yes I need help, sponsors, investors. Am I desperate? Yes if desperate means to bring win after win, to bring major ROI (Return on Investment) and, my new definition for ROI (Return on Inclusion), both. Yearning to show, as female team owner, I too am worthy of big $ investments equal to the storied male owners in the sport. You could replace desperate with eager, professionally motived, highly qualified and storied. Why do I say I know better? Because of the 100’s if not 1000’s of “No’s” I’ve received in my quest to bring a winning team to the sport, along with diversity and inclusion to the grittiest lane on earth, pit lane.

And I'm not alone. I talk with, am friends with, and support women at the top trying to accomplish their primary goals, such as the Women's National Football Conference, SheIs, boxing, golf, tennis, and baseball greats. I've sat on impressive panel discussions with women athletes and founders. Here is our shared experience in terms of response to requests for support;

Doesn't align with our investment thesis, NO…..

Seed is too early for us, NO….

Your growth is magnificent, BUT…

We want to invest in women/women of color, BUT

Brilliant league/team BUT….

I've done much in Motorsports, set records, changed history, and failed, not by choice but lack of partnership. I've heard from prominent people, "good luck, that's a tough business," instead of "how can I help?" We are highly qualified to get to where we are, and we can bring the ROI with the support. But, without investment, we are sidelined.

There is a trend of famous names investing in many sports and Motorsports, Michael Jordan and Pitbull, to name a few. I and others would love to see a woman of fame doing the same in sports, my team, or any team of women. How amazing to lock arms with the female equivalent of the male legends involved in the business.

Often people say I'm an inspiration, CEO's have told me, "I have daughters that have changed my world; your story is so inspiring, we'll be watching you"…. "But it's a no for financial support"! What a message for your daughter.

And many of us have been guided that "you" need to talk to women Chief Executive Officers. Interesting because statistically, women make up less than 7% of Fortune 500 companies. I've spoken to many incredible women, powerful enough, who are all very supportive. We are all in the same trench, fighting the same issues, scrapping for the same tiny slice of pie. A friend sent me a shocking statistic: of the 66 billion in global sponsorship; women represent 2% of that funding.

And so there is a trend of Series and leagues schilling that we are the first. Let's try to honor the many women before and after us and stop allowing male-dominated Series and media from schilling "the first ."It's a tool and a degrading one in that we are barely there, by some luck, likely with little financial support, given the statistic of global sponsorship dollars. There are apparent exceptions of great help in sports. Instead, we should laud brands for financially backing women in their remarkable achievements.

We are or aren't social media sensations, and "visibility" is often used against the change-makers in their respective sports. Unicorns aren't easy investments; unicorns are the few of us bold enough to bring all of our experience, business, and guts to be that change. When I fielded my first team in auto racing, I had over a billion impressions globally, featured in countless press articles, tv interviews etc. It's not enough. When I use "I," this is a collective experience of the many women who cannot get funding, equal pay, or partners who genuinely put their money behind their support of women.

Recently I was touched by an article about an airline giving the search dogs from the tragic earthquake seats in first class rather than being in a box in the cargo hold. The most beautiful gesture amid one of the most devastating human tragedies. And then I saw this quote on LinkedIn under a photo of one of the very dogs riding in comfort that read;

"The world isn't desperate for 'Brand Purpose'; It's desperate for Brand Contribution."

This quote struck me deeply because, in the case of women, myself, and the many, brand contribution is what we need. We need to be elevated, helped to first class, and believe that we are doing gut-busting, game-changing, heroic things in sports and can do more with solid financial support. We need those CEOs' daughters to see us in action in every sport and life with the same support and investment as our male counterparts.

In this vein, think about the famous hand pass from Tiger Woods on display for the world to see the true mentality of what we/tampons represent; you play like a girl. Deep-seated corporate, institutional beliefs passed from hand to hand with a laugh.

Early during an interview for The NY Times, I said I thought my car would be awash in tampon ads or products mainly marketed towards women. That never happened. Hey Tampon, let's show the world how girls play and win. Where are woman's products brands? We are in sports, athletes, leagues, teams, owners, and coaches, and we are here to stay, achieve greatness, and win.

Perseverance is one of the most underrated human qualities. I refuse to give up looking for that one yes that allows me to field a significant team and win. Please invest equal dollars in women in sports. Your brand contribution will be the headline, inspirational, and exemplary among brands.

If you would like to win, don't hesitate to get in touch with Jackie.

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