The Effect of Success
The success of the Lionesses has had a seismic impact on both consumer and commercial interest in women’s football. Sponsorships from brands such as Pepsi Max and Doritos serve as signifiers of the trajectory of the women’s game, which as been amplified by the recent success of England. Women’s sport viewership in the UK has been increasing 140% year on year, and the7stars research shows that 57% say the Lionesses’ success has made them more interested in women’s football.
Culturally, the Lionesses have already had a significant impact on changing attitudes and inspiring a generation of girls to take up football. However, this influence must be passed into the Women’s Super League (WSL) commercially in order to benefit the women’s game in the long term. Attendance at WSL games has been poor in previous seasons, in 2021/22 the WSL average attendance was 2,282; under half of the FA’s attendance goal by 2024. However, momentum from the Euros is already having an impact, Manchester United initially sold-out tickets to their opening game of the season and have opened an additional stand in order to make more tickets available. However, ensuring this momentum remains throughout the season will be a significant concern for stakeholders of the WSL. Comparisons can be drawn to the 2019 Women’s World Cup which recorded significant interest at the time of the tournament, only for it to dissipate before the WSL. However, the Euros has had over twice the amount of interest and therefore may be in a better position to avoid this post tournament slump.
The Opportunity for Brands
The growth of women’s football creates a unique and multi-faceted media opportunity, as it can expose brands who are familiar with football to a new demographic, this is particularly significant for brands such as bookmakers. The WSL could grow to mirror the Women’s National Basket Association (WNBA) which exemplifies this opportunity. The WNBA’s betting partner specifically targets women through a ‘Bet on Women’ predictor game which combines both sport and popular culture, attempting to bring more women into gambling. The UK may follow this trend as bookmakers adapt to capture a new demographic which is increasingly interacting with football.
Brands who previously considered advertising on football unviable are also presented with a new opportunity as their target demographic may be increasingly interacting with football. Women’s football can be a particularly palatable sponsorship opportunity for these types of brands due to the positivity and togetherness that surrounds the Lionesses.
Whilst 42% of people think brands must do more to support women’s football at a professional level (the7stars Lightbox Lowdown), there is an element of risk for those who follow the momentum created by the Euros. Interest in the Lionesses has had a meteoric rise, but this also means that prospective sponsors must do additional diligence to ensure that their efforts come across as authentic. This suspicion can be combatted by showing commitment to the grassroots of the women’s game by championing principles such visibility and accessibility, this approach is exemplified by Nike’s Women’s Euros campaign.
Sources: SportsProMedia, Reuters, Nielsen, Google Analytics, 90min, the7stars Lightbox Lowdown