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By Amy Houston | Reporter

July 20, 2022 | 7 min read

As part of The Drum’s Sports Marketing Deep Dive, we turn our attention to women’s football and the role of advertising in progressing the narrative around the game.

It’s no secret that women in sports have had to fight hard to be taken seriously and gain similar opportunities as their male counterparts – shockingly, it wasn’t until 1997 that The FA outlined plans to develop the women’s game from grassroots to an elite level.

As we take in Euro 2022 and enjoy how popular women’s football has become, it’s easy to forget just how recently it wasn’t receiving the respect it deserves. With each new tournament, we have witnessed increased interest from fans, the media and, of course, brands keen to tap into its newfound favor.

All too often, unfortunately, these attempts by brands to insert themselves into the conversation have been patronizing at best. With each new tournament, we have thankfully also seen the odd brand get it spot-on as they tap into the excitement and the momentum and play a genuine role in progressing the narrative around the women’s game.

Here, we take a look back at some of those key moments in the evolution of women’s football advertising:

2015: Nike’s ‘American Woman’ by Wieden+Kennedy

Back in 2015, women’s football didn’t get nearly as much coverage as it does today. This particular commercial was part of Nike Soccer’s ’No Maybes’ campaign and featured soccer players Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe.

The film captures their journey from training to match day, building up pace with a soundtrack of American Woman by The Guess Who.

“You have to have a team mentality with the competitiveness of the individual,” explains US women’s national team captain Abby Wambach of the motivational spot. “You want to make sure that everyone around you has the same mentality and then enmesh those individualities. We are masters of controlling ourselves and bringing out the best in each other.”

2017: Icelandair’s ‘Unstoppable for Iceland’ by Islenska

This Icelandair commercial launched during the Euro 2017 tournament. Developed by Reykjavík-based agency Islenska, the spot highlighted the fact the Icelandic women’s national football team was heading to the championships and that, even though they might have faced challenges along the way and were seen as underdogs, perseverance and hard work had brought them success.

“As people started paying more attention to women’s football, so did the advertisers,“ Islendska’s creative director Baldvin Thormodsson tells us. “But it’s a symbiotic relationship where one plays up the other and vice versa. It’s our responsibility as advertisers to be aware of this and to be mindful of where we divert people’s attention to.“

He adds: “This specific commercial was created to inspire, to remind our young ones that you can have what it takes to become a professional footballer, regardless of gender or background. The film also highlights how things have changed for the better in these past few decades. Young girls were denied the same opportunities the boys had and weren’t encouraged to play sports. Fortunately, today, we are motivating more women to participate. This, in turn, results in additional role models for kids to look up to.“

2019: ING’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’ by JWT

To promote the 2019 World Cup, financial services company ING worked with agency JWT on an inspiring spot that showcased a team in training.

Directed by Jane Stockdale, who shot the documentary-style ad over four days in Zeist, Netherlands, the short captured beautifully the essence of the team – the laughs, friendships and hardships that all come with being a professional footballer.

“It helped people look at women playing football differently,” says Bas Korsten, global chief creative officer at Wunderman Thompson. ”As main sponsor of all Dutch football, ING wanted to show the exact same hardship, tackles, injuries, fierce training and comradery as with men playing football and not talk about the fact that it’s women playing.

”It’s just football, with the same intensity, the same amount of sweat and, since this year, the same amounts of money. Which is a great victory. And I do feel that the advertising has helped shape that image.”

2019: Nike’s ‘Dream Further’ by Wieden+Kennedy

Another one from the 2019 World Cup, sportswear giant Nike dropped this 3-minute-long spot called ‘Dream Further’, which at the time felt like a bit of a milestone – audiences were used to seeing inspiring, fast-paced and emotive spots from the brand, but they were for the men’s game.

The film takes viewers on a journey with the young footballer Makena Cook, who waits nervously with the team to walk out on to the noisy pitch. As the anticipation builds, she starts to daydream of what life would be like as a professional footballer while Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ Bad Reputation plays in the background.

She imagines being celebrated for scoring the winning goal, becoming famous around the world and being turned into a character in a video game. As the youngster awakens from her fantasy and heads out to the pitch, the words ‘Don’t change your dream. Change your world’ appear on the screen.

[Fun fact: Makena debuts the limited-edition ’Dream Further’ jersey in the film, which was the first-ever kids-only football shirt designed specifically for girls.]

2022: Nike’s ‘Never Settle, Never Done’ by Wieden+Kennedy

Bringing us up to the present day, Nike’s latest ad showcases the confidence, speed and technical ability of footballers at the top of their game.

Famous faces in the Euro 2022 spot include Lionesses captain Leah Williamson, France’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas.

Additionally, the brand has also released its ‘Rebel Girls’ campaign, which tells the stories of women footballers and coaches from around the world to inspire young girls and celebrate the joy of the sport.

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“The women in this book are an inspiration as they set new levels of performance and break barriers on the journey to create an equal playing field,” notes Kim van Dijk, vice-president of Nike EMEA Kids.

“Not only are they inspiring young and old with their ability, passion and team spirit, but are genuinely committed to making a difference for the next generation of football players.”

Check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, The New Sports Marketing Playbook, and learn the tactics employed by the world’s biggest sports organizations and their star athletes to stay top of their game.

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