The public sector, airlines and insurance companies lead the sponsoring leading fields. The English league triumphs in social networks, just as Nike does in technical sponsorship. These are the 3 main conclusions of the Benchmark 2016-17 of the 4 major leagues in Europe, having analysed the 20 top ranked clubs in the continent, listed at the end of the post.
In the sponsorship chapter, public institutions, airlines and insurers occupy the top positions in the ranking. The fact that the public sector leads this list is a sign of the growth phase in which women’s football is in. However, it is not the ideal sponsorship, since it is an area that is strongly affected by the economic conjuncture and political decisions, reason why it can be unstable. In addition to the top 3, the sectors of transport, banking, energy and betting accompany the first mentioned. Most of them, aiming to reach large masses of potential customers and commonly present in men’s sport. That is, they perceive this sport as a platform to increase their audience considerably. In my opinion, those with a higher return of investment will be the ones able to catch fans attention through original and personal activation. Among all the leagues, the German is the one that is nourished by a greater diversity of sectors, minimizing the risk of lack of investment and being present in numerous scenarios.
Regarding the origin of these partners, the global average stands at 56%. This indicator reflects, on the one hand, the degree of affinity and confidence from local markets. On the other hand, it also shows the attractiveness it can have for external markets. Nevertheless, this latter fact can be misleading, as foreign investment of women’s teams in England or France is mainly due to their male sections. That is, it is not an interest generated properly by the women’s team. Again, Germany registers an average of 93% of national sponsors, noting that they not only trust the league but have done so for several years. Otherwise, such a figure could never have been achieved. By contrast, England and France have a respective averages of 5% and 55% of foreign investment. We will see in the coming years which model turns out to be more effective and sustainable. From my perspective, for local partners it will, a priori, be easier to obtain better results because of their market knowledge.
In relation to sports apparel manufacturers, Nike dominates the market with 9 teams, followed by Adidas with 6. Other brands such as Puma, New Balance, Hummel, Macron or Jako have less presence on the pitch. Despite being Nike the leading brand with 45%, the swoosh brand splits its leadership in Europe with Adidas. The American firm has greater visibility in Spain and France, while it is surpassed by the German manufacturer in Germany and England. Both have positioned women as one of their pillars for brand growth in the coming years. It will also be interesting to see where the interests are headed, whether to sponsor clubs or athletes as brand ambassadors.
Social Media is one of the areas that reveal more significant differences among leagues. We could define the English FA Women’s English Super League (13.9 million followers) as the teacher, Germany (4.2 million) being the best student in front of Spain (0.97 million) and France (0.83 million) as newcomers. Why? In my opinion, because of the degree of professionalisation, the years their social media platforms have been active and the ability to transfer the know-how from clubs with men’s section to women’s area. Regarding the platforms, Facebook is the most used channel by all of them with a total of 17.8 million users, followed by far by Instagram with 1.5 million and Twitter with 0.58 million. This hierarchy is replicated in each of the national leagues, so Facebook will continue to have a capital importance, and especially with the development of Facebook Live and Facebook Watch.
Clubs with men’s team
It seems an obvious trend that clubs with male section will start creating women’s teams. Considering the purchasing power and influence they have due to their history, female clubs will tend to become less competitive, successful and profitable if they are not able to find a formula to deal with it. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that up to 85% of the clubs have men’s section on average, being in England and Spain 100%. Germany and France, average a proportion of 60% and 80% respectively. The role and consequent decisions by federations and associations to promote or protect exclusively-female clubs will be critical for their survival.
6,464 spectators is the average capacity of women’s football venues in the main European leagues. By itself, this figure tells us that there is still a lot of work to be done in the field of ticketing and fan attendance. But, this figure does not reflect the record-breaking figures registered when women’s teams play in the stadiums where men’s usually do, where they reach much higher figures. The UEFA Women’s EURO finals, played by the Netherlands and Denmark, hosted more than 28,000 fans in Enschede at a match where tickets were sold out.
The 20 clubs analysed for the development of this research have been the following:
Liga Iberdrola (Spain): Atlético de Madrid Femenino, FC Barcelona Femení, Valencia CF Femenino, Levante Femenino, Athletic Club Femenino
Division 1 Féminine (France): Olympique Lyonnais, Montpellier HSC, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Marseille, FCF Juvisy Essonne
Allianz Frauen-Bundesliga (Germany): VfL Wolfsburg, Bayern München, Turbine Potsdam, SC Freiburg, 1. FFC Ffrankfurt
FA Women’s Super League (England): Chelsea Ladies FC, Manchester City Women, Arsenal Ladies FC, Liverpool Ladies FC, Sunderland AFC Ladies