Has the world cup been won?
Editorial

Has the world cup been won?

Another sporting event concluded with the United States on top, as the women’s football team beat the Netherlands to claim the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

This was no great shock – they were the reigning champions and firm favourites – but this tournament has been more political than most. Superstar striker Megan Rapinoe has defied the President of her own country, whilst thoroughly annoying Piers Morgan, and voiced her allegiance to LGBTQ+ groups during Pride month, whilst bigger questions have emerged about the status of the women’s game, with fans chanting ‘Equal pay!’ as the trophy was lifted.

Yet, for brands keen to be associated with the event, was this a win for marketing? Have the numerous brands involved made their presence felt? Has marketing won the Women’s World Cup?

Barclay’s were quick to associate themselves with the game. Sensing that buy in was worth the investment, they signed a £10million deal with the Women’s Super League to become the first ever title sponsor. Visa potentially went further, pledging to spend the same amount marketing the Women’s World Cup as it did for the men’s tournament in Russia last year; meanwhile FIFA were criticised heavily for the difference in prize money between tournament winners in Russia and then France. Exchange discussed how Lucozade bought the images of England’s team to their bottles, aping similar campaigns for the men, and the iconic anthem ‘Three Lions’ was even amended to apply to the lionesses.

Such campaigns are potentially looking to be seen as progressive and, if that’s the intent, they’ve picked the right audience. A GlobalWebIndex survey revealed that 83% of the World Cup audience believe there needs to be greater strides for equality, versus 74% of the internet as a whole. The other interesting survey finding is that the Women’s World Cup is reaching a younger audience than the male counterpart; and this younger audience is, in general, the one that pushed the equal rights agenda more than any other. As such, to be seen by them, and to be accepted by them, is a real coup.

But, did any of it work? A record audience of 7.6million people saw the English lionesses beat Norway, with similar successes in America – a market the men’s game was slow to break – and even talk of Megan Rapinoe being the ‘real president’, indicates that the tournament itself caught some crossover and is more popular than ever before. Yet, there is some way to go for the game itself and, Exchange would suggest, it’s equally important for companies seeking a quick win to think for the long-term.

Just as London 2012 was framed around an ‘Olympic legacy’ – one that, arguably, hasn’t quite lived up to expectations – brands have to be aware that they must do the hard work week in week out. The women’s game will not, and cannot, have the visibility of a live BBC One broadcast on a weekly basis, and Lucozade, Barclay’s, Visa and, indeed, FIFA itself, must stay for the long haul.

Similarly, the best marketing of the tournament came when the England squad and other sports stars were able to stand on their own two feet, without being compared to the men’s game. Lucozade putting big name stars such as Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris – a player Phil Neville claimed could be the best in the world - on their bottles meant a lot more than a revamped version of the three lions. Though the English lionesses played out like the best of the male version since 1966 – with hope, expectation, a semi-final loss and some pretty awful penalties – they more than earnt their place as stars in their own right and brands will do well to remember that and stick with this new winning team.

 

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