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Fifa Women’s World Cup Brand Strategy Marketing

It's not too late for brands to net a late winner at the 2023 Women’s World Cup

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By Tatenda Nyamande, Account planner

August 14, 2023 | 7 min read

EssenceMediacom’s Tatenda Nyamande and Molly Towers Mode have offered tips to brands that have missed out on the Women’s World Cup.

Pixel

During a decided washout summer, at least we’ve had some good football to tune into - evidently, more than five million people in the UK alone think so, having watched the England v Nigeria game last week and likely more for the most recent fixture at the weekend against Colombia.

Globally, viewing figures are even more impressive - 2bn people are alleged to have viewed the tournament. A quarter of the world’s population is watching, so why aren’t brands doing more to capitalize on this breakthrough moment for women’s sports?

Brands hitting the back of the net

Let’s take a look at some campaigns that have great planning at their heart and strong executions.

Google Pixel partnered with the English Football Association for a campaign that highlights talent and aims to close the visibility gap in women’s football. Pixel and the Women’s Sport Trust found 2% of print football coverage and 6% of TV football news in the UK covers women’s games. Pixel FC, a group of committed women’s football creators and presenters, was born - and has been working hard to address the gender bias the sport contends with and improve opportunity and access for girls and women to enter the world of football.

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EE’s Hope United is another winner, a purpose-led campaign calling out sexism with a tangible output. It’s a team of footballers assembled to tackle online hate, with male and female players including Ellen White, Lucy Bronze, Jordan Henderson, Rebecca Sellar and Demi Stokes, all managed by Gareth Southgate. Hope United’s purpose is to “galvanize the nation to make a stand against social media hate”; it gives people the necessary tools to understand the devastating effects of online abuse and be part of the solution.

Weetabix has also cleverly been jumping on the fact that matches are being shown in the morning. It’s leaning into this contextually relevant moment, investing in TV and on-pack promotions.

Paying the penalty for missed opportunities

While there are some good examples of brand activation, brands, on the whole, have been wide of the mark - and missing the chance to ride the huge engagement that the World Cup is seeing.

It seems that the sport is undervalued, and the fanbase is too. The viewing figures don’t lie; there’s a significant audience watching this World Cup. Yet brands are not responding proportionally to this substantial level of interest. Brands seem to have discounted women’s sports fans because there is a perception viewers are niche and skewed towards women.

The reality is audiences tuning in are broad, evenly split male-female, and extremely inclusive. So if a brand is looking for a broad-reach partnership, the search is over: women’s sports can do it all.

There doesn’t appear to be much reactive content or innovative use of data, such as match results; brands could catch some low-hanging fruit by using data to feed quick, creative campaigns.

There has also been no real focus on the individual players or ‘heroing’ their abilities. There are probably two main reasons for this, the first being that brands don’t care about women’s sports even if they say they do, and the second is that matches are happening in Australia, and brands don’t think people are tuning in.

Recovering from those missed goals

As any great player like Chloe Kelly or Lauren James knows, just because you miss a goal doesn’t mean you give up. At the time of writing, we’ve got under a week of this tournament left, and brands can step up and fill the gaps between now and the final.

So many rich and incredible stories are playing out at this World Cup, like 18-year-old Linda Caicedo making a mark in her senior debut. With these stories come exciting opportunities for brands to be involved in the conversation, support and uplift these inspirational athletes, helping inspire the next generation.

Hyundai’s ‘Goal of the Century’ – a brand not typically associated with the women’s game – is stepping up and expanding its campaign to focus on the World Cup. It gives an optimistic look at the future and highlights women’s sports as capable of those breakthrough television moments as the men’s. It proves there’s scope for brands to go boldly with this, take a stand, and tap into a potential audience they may not have otherwise reached.

Let this World Cup be a rude awakening for brands not following the numbers as they typically would. Brands not investing now to engage with these super-loyal audiences or incredible athletes will miss a massive open goal.

There is still time to make the most of the remaining Fifa Women’s World Cup. So ask yourself, are you brave enough?

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