Women’s football is the biggest growing opportunity in sports, being football the biggest, the most participatory and the one offering more opportunities for young girls and boys. In terms of investment, “women’s football is just a winner”.

With these words, Rebecca Smith, Global Executive Director at COPA90, closed yesterday’s webinar where Andrea Ekblad, Partnerships & Acquisitions & Content Strategy at beIN SPORTS, and, Kayleigh Grieve, Head of Women’s Football Marketing & Sponsorship at UEFA, also took part. A session organised by SportsPro within their Insider Series.

We had the privilege of knowing more about Andrea’s insights regarding the role of broadcasters in women’s football, her most recent project under the women’s sports project, “beINSPIRED”, with Nadia Nadim and advice on how to advance in the sports industry on a recent blog interview.

Following Kayleigh’s intervention on behalf of UEFA’s women’s football division, in my opinion, she made clear how the marketing and commercial success from UEFA in the recent years has been driven by decisions such as creating an exclusive product for women’s football, building consistent value for partners across seasons, providing long-term and strategic platforms for sponsors and collecting detailed data about audiences to segment content.

Here are the main takeaways from the significant growth of UEFA competitions and their commercial value in the last years:

  • Unbundling women’s football. Women’s football rights from UEFA competitions used to be commercialized in the same packages that included men’s football rights. Creating exclusive packages for women’s football competitions like UWCL finals, UEFA Women’s Euro, futsal and youth competitions was essential to elevate their commercial value over two years ago. The result, record partnerships deals such as Visa (7-year deal), Nike (3-year deal), Esprit (2,5-year deal) and Hublot (7-year deal). According to Kayleigh, women’s football can offer different packages with unique angles, audiences and opportunities.
  • The need for creativity. During the current global pandemic, the department has had to adapt to the stop of competitions to redefine strategies to keep delivering value to their commercial partners. While they saw a drop in participation among girls and women, creating digital activations has been key to find solutions with sponsors. For example, UEFA announced the new tournament for UWCL 2019-20 with Visa and many of the activities of the Playmakers initiative, launched with Disney and aimed to increase kids participation, were quickly adapted to be played at home.
  • Frequency across the year. Even though tournament-format competitions can be appealing for brands and broadcasters, sponsors tend to look for consistent activations that can generate value during the season and in the long run. Actually, the new Challenge Cup was presented by NWSL with new sponsors, P&G and Secret. According to Kayleigh, brands appreciate ongoing communication during the year, which can be reinforced with big events like UWCL finals. Companies’ marketing and sponsorship teams tend to work together to define long-term budgets to maximise frequency.
  • New centralised marketing UWCL. From 2021-22 season, UEFA will own the media rights from the new group stage up to the final, instead of only the finals as the confederation has been owning so far. This new format will allow UEFA to produce every game for TV or online, being sponsorship rights partially centralised for UEFA women’s football partners from the group stage. A valuable opportunity to keep growing the commercial value with an exclusive product separated from men’s competitions.
  • An audience with longer attention span. Few years ago, data showed how much of the fan base following women’s football was dominated by men. Platforms such as WePlayStrong have allowed UEFA to increase engagement from girls and young women who seek to participate. Currently, content is aimed to different market segments according to demographics but mainly behavioural criteria. On the one hand, there is an audience of football fans that feel appealed by the women’s game because of their interest in the sport. On the other hand, there are those hard-die women’s football fans who know every detail and demand different content. “We can hold our audience for 15 minutes on Twitter”, an impressive achievement shared by Kayleigh Grieve.

Definitely, a momentum that could be slowed down by the pandemic, since the re-scheduled UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 will now take place in 2022. An opportunity to have its own spotlight, in detriment of the recent growing interest worldwide. In regards to the future, club competitions and participation among future generations are the main pillars to grow the game, also from a commercial standpoint.

Here is the SportsPro webinar replay and the promo UEFA released for the new UWCL tournament, launched with Visa:

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