Earlier this year, Sport Bigs hit the scene with a goal to break the mold in the toy department. The Toy Book caught up with Sport Bigs founder and former USA Women’s Rugby star Pam Kosanke to find out what inspired her to create the first plush toy for young kids that celebrates athletes in women’s sports.
Toy Book: Can you tell us about Sport Bigs and how the idea for the brand came about?
Pam Kosanke: Growing up as a female athlete, I was always frustrated and confused about why toys didn’t exist that celebrated people like me. All the action figures, posters, and baseball cards were about male athletes. This was reflected in the real world, too. My high school girls basketball team in St. Louis had to use a sprinkler room as a locker room and play games in an old gym with a dead spot on the floor. The boys varsity and junior varsity teams got the nice locker rooms and played in the new gym. I couldn’t help but connect the dots. It never made any sense to me.
TB: Are Sport Bigs are about representation in more ways than one?
PK: Absolutely. First and foremost, I wanted to make a toy that I wished I had as a young girl. So, Sport Bigs are exactly that — a really fun plush toy for all the young Pams out there — because, for some reason, we don’t celebrate the athlete identity in girls and young women.
My deeper mission is to strengthen the infrastructure for women’s sports. That includes everything from making sure that a high school girls basketball team in St. Louis has a nice locker room and plays on a court without a dead spot, to dramatically increasing sponsorship opportunities across the entire spectrum of women’s sports.
TB: What’s unique about Sport Bigs?
PK: The best way to see what’s unique about these toys is to walk down a toy aisle marketed toward girls in your hometown. I recently made a video to show what I mean. In short, there is a lot of pink and no female figures with any muscle tone whatsoever. Sport Bigs started as a figurine idea, but it quickly evolved into a stand-up plush toy that actually shows women with muscles. You have no idea how complicated it is to create plush toys with the right amount of cotton in the right places to present a powerful, muscular female athlete!
TB: Why was it important to you to base the plush on actual female athletes?
PK: The first lineup includes basketball star — and now coach — Rebekkah Brunson, soccer phenom Lori Lindsey, and softball superstar Lisa Fernandez. They represent a rich diversity of people and sports.
What I love most is that they literally give women a voice. When you press them, they offer words and phrases of encouragement — all voiced by the actual women — and motivation like, “Be true to you!”; “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”; and “Give me some swagger!”
TB: What’s your long-term vision for the Sport Bigs brand?
PK: Think about this: Only 4% of sports-related media covers women’s sports, and only 1% of sponsorships go to women’s sports. In the short term, I want Sport Bigs to open the door for more toys that celebrate the female athlete identity, so girls don’t feel pressured or pigeonholed when they (and their parents) walk down that toy aisle. Longer-term, I want to add more athletes to the Sport Bigs family and help elevate women’s sports on all levels.
The big dream is reinvesting earnings into women’s sports sponsorships and media, as well as growing women’s sports participation, exposure, and, most importantly, players’ salaries, self-worth, and overall economics. Simply put, we aim to become the No. 1 sponsor of women’s sports on the planet!
Women athletes don’t just need “a seat at the table.” We need to build our own table. Maybe that starts with building our own toys.