How Global Marketers Can Learn From the 2015 Women’s World Cup

Posted by Sophia Barnhart

Growing interest and support towards women in sports are providing new opportunities for global marketers.

Global sporting events are prime real estate for marketers; amidst the scoring and cheering and heartbreak and celebration, there are plenty of opportunities for brands to join in on the fun. Just taking a peek at the astronomic numbers sponsors poured into advertising spots during the Super Bowl or Olympic Games shows the prominence of sports as marketing platforms. As women in sport continue to gain ground and demand the audience they deserve, global marketers need to anticipate the variety of opportunities to reach an expansive audience. Here are some recommendations on what to consider and how to best capitalize as a marketer on the growing interest and support towards female athletes.

Embrace Girl Power

“I think people, FIFA included, can’t help but notice how popular this sport is. It’s like anything: there is always an evolution, there’s always a process to go through before equal footing is gained. I hate to say money is the driving factor in a lot of things, but this is a very popular sport. Sponsors understand it, the general public understands it, so hopefully the establishment takes note and understands that,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said.
While the sporting world has been largely dominated by male teams, this year’s Women’s World Cup—topped by a thrilling final win by the US over Japan—shows the inevitable growth of the women’s game. Leading up to the final, FOX reported an average viewership of 5.3 million viewers (a 121% increase from the 2011 Women’s World Cup). Coca Cola, one of FIFA’s main sponsors, recognized the rise of women in sports and introduced the ‘Trophy Tour’ for the WWC, pumping up fans before the tournament started. It’s up to global marketers to capitalize on the hot-topic interest and build this into a sustainable opportunity for future women’s sporting events. Sponsorships and support will help recognition for women’s teams thrive and develop into an essential global marketing tool.

Know the Sport

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As with marketing any sport, it’s important to understand the event you’re about to sponsor. For example, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that soccer doesn’t have commercial breaks. While this means a lack of 20-30 second advertisement slots, this does mean a huge buildup to the main breaks: the pre-game coverage, the post-game whistle, and, most importantly, the halftime window. Anticipating the schedule breakdown of a sporting event is crucial in order for global marketers to best prepare their materials and understand which time slots would yield a higher audience.

Time Zones Matter

This weekend marked the first time in 11 years that the FIFA Women’s World Cup aired live on network television. A benefit to the 2015 WWC being held in Canada is the time zone; given that the live showings of the games would gain the most viewership, hosting the tournament so clos e to home meant prime opportunities to market in the States. The 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, on the other hand, likely resulted in more European support (plus the dedicated American enthusiasts who woke up at 7am to catch the live games). Understanding the impact of time zones on live global audiences can better help you refine your marketing strategy and generate more engagement and interest.

Nail the Hashtag

Using the Women’s World Cup as a global marketing tool WhenInfluenster surveyed over 10,000 U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 45, 99% of whom identified as “heavy social media users,” it found that 83% of American women were planning to watch the Women’s World Cup.

Sponsors who did take advantage of using the Women’s World Cup as a global marketing tool were sure to plan ahead; they’d need a quick, memorable yet powerful hook to engage the growing number of fans tuning into the tournament via social media. Hashtags celebrating girl power spread like wildfire: Adidas took the tournament to showcase two products from their new boot rangethrough their #BeTheDifference campaign. Continental Tyres showed their support for the England women’s team with a short but powerful interview series with several players, compiling the video series into their #RoadtoCanada campaign. Chevy, as the official vehicle sponsor of US soccer, made sure not to leave the ladies out by coining #AllGirlsPlay, paired with a behind the scenes video series following the US women’s players. As part of its #NoMaybes campaign, Nike Soccer launched its “American Woman” ad, outlining the intense preparation the USWNT underwent before hitting the field. Finally, the US Soccer Federation brought positive engagement to the women’s side by introducing their #SheBelieves campaign. This was perhaps the most widespread hashtag, as the campaign stretched across a number of other brands including Trident, Ritz and Chips Ahoy, whom also used the hashtag when posting related World Cup content.

Drop the Drama

Underlying the excitement of the Women’s World Cup, unfortunately, stood the scandals within FIFA. Spooked by the corruption committed by former FIFA officials, many viewers and sponsorships chose not to get involved with the tournament. Despite former FIFA president Sepp Blatter stepping down from his position, it’s quite possible that brands wanted to stay clear of the controversy. That being said, realizing the ultimate message sent to WWC viewers did not have to be tainted by the controversy, marketers should have stuck with their sponsorships; and some did—according to The Wall Street Journal, Fox should pull in roughly $17 million in sponsorship revenue from brands like Fiat and Nationwide Insurance. Now that FIFA is being brought its knees by a series of international investigations spearheaded by the U.S., hopefully sponsors should feel more confident in their partnerships moving forward. Nonetheless, it’s important for global marketers to recognize which “drama” should be taken seriously or simply dismissed. In the case of this year’s Women’s World Cup, sponsors who chose to stick with their original marketing plans seemed to benefit the most.

Marketers of sports events should recognize events such as this year’s Women’s World Cup as an opportunity to encapsulate the core demographic that always seemed to slip through their fingers: young women and families. With the rise of powerful women across all borders, in and out of households, failing to include viewers of women’s sports in your target market will ultimately do more harm than good. Moving forward, the female athlete is no longer a spectacle to be ignored by marketers; seeing the success brought by the 2015 Women’s World Cup, it’s safe to assume that the growth of women’s sport has no intention of stopping anytime soon.