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“Secret, I bought this deodorant because you’re a sponsor of the NWSL”, or “My first Budweiser, thanks for supporting the NWSL”.

According to the NWSL’s Vice President of Business Development, Lindsay Barenz, on a recent participation at the Athens Women’s Football Summit, the new partnerships with CBS and Twitch have been game-changing for the commercial growth of the league.

Not only these platforms have allowed to engage with an undersupplied audience but to lead the NWSL to increase domestic TV figures up nearly 500%. The Fall Series averaged 383,000 viewers during the seven matches, the seven most-watched in NWSL history.

Celebrating sponsorships

However, Lindsay’s point goes beyond awareness. The sponsorship friendliness and commitment from fans to partners are truly remarkable. The NWSL counts with a community that support the game besides their home clubs, difficult to see in other leagues. For this reason, Twitter has been filled up with messages from followers celebrating new partners’ support by buying their products.

With only 4% of media coverage dedicated to women’s sports, the digital ecosystem has traditionally been the natural environment for conversations about equality, women’s football and inclusion. COVID-19 has only amplified a nearly digital native audience. This is why only the NWSL accounted for half of the ten professional sports teams with the highest engagement on social media last week. Angel City, Portland Thorns, NC Courage, Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars successfully made it to the ranking.

Show me the money

So, how can sustainable business be built from this unique engagement?

Marketing and partnership proposals in women’s football should include what kind of business model can make the sponsorship successful in the long run. The Virtual Watch Party by Secret powered by Google was an example of delivering experiences to fans, at the same time they generated a meaningful relationship with them.

According to Front Office Sports, $1.3M in social sponsorship value was provided for clubs’ and league’s corporate sponsors like Verizon, Google, Secret and Procter & Gamble only in the preliminary round of the Challenge Cup.

On the other hand, observing the disruption in fan attitudes and behaviour in sport, what kind of message is sending any brand that spends millions of dollars in the NFL or the NBA but invests nothing in the women’s game? Women’s sport has the social relevance to drive this kind of conversations for the good of society.

Maybe women’s sports receive only 0.4% of total sports sponsorships, but 42% of women’s football fans are willing to actively inform themselves about brands engaged in the game. While viewership is rocketing, engagement proves women’s football is made of a different kind of spirit.

Let’s make brands feel proud of it.

The full panel on “Sponsorship in the Women’s Game” during the Athens Women’s Football Summit, here:

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