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As the Women’s World Cup approaches, brands begin to ratchet up their involvement.

Budweiser, Weetabix, and Unilever are among the brands channeling their advertising investments towards the upcoming Women’s World Cup. This diverse range of brands underscores the opportunities that women’s sports present.

As the Women's World Cup approaches, brands begin to ratchet up their involvement.

The preparations for the Women’s World Cup are fully underway. Following a prolonged dispute over TV broadcasting rights, which was recently resolved when BBC and ITV confirmed their coverage of the tournament, brands have now begun allocating their advertising budgets to support the highly anticipated women’s football event, commencing on July 20th.


Undoubtedly, there has been a surge of activity, driven by the constrained timeframe that most brands have had to operate within. However, considering that over 17 million viewers tuned in to the Euro final in the summer of 2022, marking a pivotal moment for both the game and women’s sports in general, it’s unsurprising that brands are eager to align themselves with this significant societal shift.


“There appears to be genuine enthusiasm from brands,” stated ITV’s Chief Marketing Officer Jane Stiller in a recent conversation with Marketing Week. “Although everyone always desires more time, I don’t believe this has hindered creativity or interest.”


Research conducted by the Women’s Sport Trust after the Euros revealed that 46% of newly engaged viewers of women’s sports have extended their interest to women’s cricket, while an equal 46% have continued to follow women’s football. Among the 15.8 million viewers who had not previously watched women’s sports before the Euros, 16% fell within the under-35 demographic, and 47% were female. This emerging audience presents an exciting new target for brands.


However, despite the excitement, it’s reasonable to voice some criticism towards brands for their delayed response to the competition. In a column for Marketing Week, Helen James pointed out the “chicken and egg” situation that emerged regarding the tournament. Brands cited the absence of confirmed media coverage as a challenge in justifying advertising expenditure, whereas broadcasters claimed the rights were too costly without confirmed funding from advertisers.


She concluded by stating: “In situations like this, someone has to take the first step. Brands should take the lead and proactively support women’s sports, leaving behind those who hesitate to invest in it.”

Unilever stood as one of the initial major corporations to extend its support to the tournament. In May, it made public its endorsement, confirming that its range of personal care brands (including Dove, Lux, Lifebuoy, and Sure) would serve as official sponsors of the World Cup. This occurrence marks the first instance of a variety of personal care products sponsoring a World Cup event, be it in men’s or women’s football. This innovation indicates the distinct avenues that women’s football offers brands, which they might not perceive in the realm of men’s football.


One aspect of Unilever’s sponsorship entails a collaboration between the company and Fifa through its Women’s Development Programme, aimed at advancing the growth of women’s and girls’ football on a global scale. Unilever will also distribute 80,000 gift packs at Fifa events in the coming years.


It’s also noteworthy that the female beauty brand Venus has embraced the concept of aligning its brand with women’s football. It has partnered with England’s Lotte Wubben-Moy for an extension of its #MoveYourSkin campaign, with an advertisement scheduled to air during one of the opening matches of the tournament.


Budweiser categorizes this initiative as its ‘most extensive trade campaign’ to date and will incorporate the customary combination of a 30-second TV spot and out-of-home activations. Simultaneously, it is partnering with major retailers such as Asda and Tesco. The collaboration with Asda will involve the sale of branded bucket hats, while a contribution of 50p from each pack of 15x300ml bottles sold at Tesco will be directed towards the advancement of football through The FA.


One prevalent perspective regarding the delayed agreement of TV rights deals for the tournament is that the early-morning kick-off times dissuaded brands. However, some brands are using these early starts to their advantage. The breakfast cereal brand Weetabix, for instance, has invested £2.2 million into its TV campaigns for the tournament, aiming to seize the opportunity of morning viewership to remind individuals to commence their day with a bowl of cereal.


Furthermore, Weetabix is dedicating resources to on-pack promotions, offering a chance to win an official home nations shirt every 90 minutes, along with numerous footballs as prizes. Its out-of-home activation involves a collaboration with Boxpark Wembley, a location with a history of celebratory beer tossing during past tournaments. This partnership will result in a distinctive branded breakfast takeover of the venue during England’s initial stage matches, potentially even featuring flying milk bottles as part of the creative display.


Undoubtedly, numerous other campaigns are likely to be unveiled and initiated in the upcoming weeks. However, one thing remains evident: the engagement of brands in women’s sports does not appear to be a transient trend.

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