Photo Courtesy of Theary Chhim
If you’ve been in and around Seattle during football season, you’ve experienced the power of the growing 12th man fan base that is so prevalent in this city. Still reveling in the first ever Seahawks Super Bowl victory and gearing up for a RE-PETE in Arizona, it’s no surprise this Seattle team has attracted a vast number of followers over the past few years. We’re still bruised from being robbed of an NBA team, and the Mariners are as unpredictable as ever, so a successful NFL team was the confidence we needed in a Seattle sports team.
What has been more intriguing to follow is the rapid growth of female fans. The NFL has certainly restructured and increased marketing to women in recent years, ditching the pastel pink jerseys of the past to release crisp form-fitting traditional jerseys. Monday night commercials now feature prominent NFL players advocating for a stop to domestic abuse, and Erin Andrews has proven women deserve a spot on the sidelines with players after the game. According to market research firm Scarborough, over the past two years Seattle has gained 650,000 new fans, and two thirds of those fans are women. Why the sudden shift in gender audience? Certainly following a winning team is easy, but women Seahawks fans will tell you it’s much more than that.
Visit Seattle PR Manager Kauilani Robinson has been following the ‘Hawks for the past decade, and has really enjoyed Seattle’s enthusiasm for football in recent years. As a Hawaii transplant, Robinson grew up in a strong football community watching NFL games religiously, but hasn’t experienced anything like Seattle’s united love for the LOB. “The Seahawks are an interesting team to all ages and their success unites the city unlike anything I’ve witnessed,” said Robinson. “From what I understand of Pete Carroll and the general manager John Schneider, they look for unique individuals with talent, regardless of where they come from, how high they were drafted, or what they look like. As a woman in the workplace, I can appreciate that even playing field and willingness to look outside the box,” she said. Robinson is one of many 12th ladies that has an appreciation for the NFL’s efforts to appeal more to female audiences. “The NFL has done a great job with new hip apparel for female fans, selecting strong women like Beyoncé for the halftime show at the Super Bowl and even taking part in serious matters like breast cancer and domestic violence,” she said. Marissa McElroy is a District Manager for Mud Bay, where you can often find Russell Wilson shopping for his Great Danes. She followed suit from her parents at an early age, who are Seahawks fans and loves that 12th women are outspoken and not afraid to yell. “I think that there are more female athletes than ever before, more women in the military, more successful women in the workplace. Isn’t it natural that there are more women NFL fans?” she said. McElroy is certainly not alone in her mentality.
When I took to social media to scour the city for female 12s to answer questions about the growing female fandom in Seattle, my wall, inbox, and voicemail were flooded. I received an overwhelming willingness from female fans to share opinions on why they love the ‘Hawks, and why more women should too. “12th ladies are true to the Blue,” said Kim Knapman, Office Coordinator for Paradigm Communication Group. “These women scream, and are loud and proud. We have nothing but faith in these men every game,” she said. “I like to think that women in this part of the country are encouraged to be strong and independent,” said Lisa Harbour, Assistant State Auditor at the Washington State Auditor’s Office. “The type of attitude this team brings sparks our freedom to enjoy entertainment historically earmarked for male audiences,” she said.
Theary Chhim helped design a stylish Seahawks clothing line, Datsfilthy, which features female tees and sweatshirts with iconic graphics in Seahawks history, like the Beast Quake and LOB stops. “It’s so awesome that women are finally catching on – I love this team!,” said Chhim.
Kristina Pha grew up in Seattle, and is now a mom of three who lives across the country, but has her growing family rooting for the Seahawks. “I love Russell Wilson. My mom jokes that my oldest son resembles him and I don’t mind my son having extra good role models,” she said.
It’s apparent women admire this team on and off the field, and appreciate players’ contributions to society, like Wilson’s weekly visits to Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Chancellor’s Kam Cares Foundation, which raises money for local and global Non Profit organizations. Plus, these guys aren’t too hard on the eyes either; I’m looking at you Bam Bam Kam. As I grew up in the Dave Krieg and Warren Moon era, and my dad held onto Seahawks season tickets throughout the 80’s and 90’s, we sat in empty bleachers at the Kingdome leaving each game with a heavy heart and shattered dreams of following a victorious team – or following a team at all, as they were nearly shipped off to become an LA franchise. It’s euphoric to have a truly talented and unstoppable team, and witness the growing number of educated women following a league that until recent years, has ignored marketing to our gender entirely. Women 12s know a turnover isn’t a pastry, and a sweep isn’t made with a broom. We obsessively check ESPN updates, dissect injury reports, and after four interceptions, we cried alongside Russell Wilson when that football sailed right into the hands of Jermaine Kearse for the NFC Championship title.
We know and love this team, and this game. GO HAWKS!