guts logo | Brand Strategy Agency
2nd August 2023
Brand winners and losers of the FIFA Women’s World Cup – how to leverage brand sponsorships to drive results for your organisation
  • On a global scale, brands like Adidas, Nike and Orange France are showcasing incredible world-class football talent and championing gender equality and women's empowerment.
  • Commbank, Cadbury and Subway are among some of The Matilda's sponsors going into this year's FIFA Women's World Cup, empowering the next generation by reimagining what it means to be a footballer.
  • Sponsorship can help your brand go big, but there's some important considerations to maximise your ROI: stay authentic, keep it relevant and get creative.

It was only three years ago that the state of women's football in Australia was at an all-time low. Sponsors were ending deals; staff were being stood down and broadcast partners were terminating contracts. Football Australia desperately needed a solution if it wanted to survive. The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup was the game changer they needed to turn their fortune around.

Now in 2023, the Matilda's are leading the charge for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup under the leadership of one of Australia's best and most adored athletes, Samantha Kerr - a woman who is widely considered one of the greatest players in the history of women's football. With a record number of tickets sold (a whopping 1.5 million to be exact) and a predicted global audience of more than 2 billion, it is clear their success is capturing the hearts of fans worldwide.

But how did the Matilda’s pull off one of the biggest comeback stories? In 2020 Football Australia was reimagined, with millions invested to build and promote the Matilda’s brand. As a team they articulated an ambitious vision for the World Cup. Their dream was to be what Cathy Freeman was to children in 2000, leaving a lasting legacy that empowers and inspires future generations to pursue their dreams.

But their road to success hasn’t been easy. It has been full of lessons, setbacks and hard work with injuries, coaching changes and a bunch of losses. It wasn’t that long ago that the team delivered a nightmare performance at the 2022 Asian Cup. But their hard work, dedication, and commitment to their vision has ultimately paid off, with the team raising their profile in line with their vision. The Matildas brand is just about the biggest thing in Australian sport right now. They have truly inspired a nation.

This is a team that is connected to its fans, and their success goes beyond typical value measures. Research released by the Victorian government in it’s the Value of You Can be What You Can See report, suggests that for every $1 spent by a corporate sponsor of elite women’s sport supports the realisation of $7.29 in customer value to that business. This has resulted in a bigger rise in brand awareness, brand consideration and customer conversation about a sponsors product than a similar scenario in men’s sport.

Exploding in popularity over the last three years, the transformation of the Matilda’s brand has also brought numerous sponsors back to the game, including Cadbury, CommBank, QANTAS, Priceline, and Subway,  all leveraging the incredible energy that football currently has surrounding it, whilst showcasing it to new audiences. “You’ve got partners like our existing ones … that are coming in and putting the right number on the table because of where the brand is,” Football Australia CEO, James Johnson says. “After the Women‘s World Cup, it will grow, but our view is that the companies already there with us and potential sponsors that want to be part of it have to pay the right amount, because it is a real commercial sports brand. We’ve gone beyond the point of people investing in it because it’s ‘the right thing to do’. This is a commercial brand now. It’s very strong, and I do believe it’s as strong as probably just about any in the country.”

Football Australia’s campaign to promote The Matildas in the FIFA World Cup aims to rally support for the national football team in the leadup to and during the global event, and beyond. It highlights key players and their complete dedication to the task at hand with the tagline ‘We’re not done, til it’s done’ demonstrating the very essence of their committed approach. "The ‘Til It's Done’ campaign encapsulates the spirit, energy and essence of this team and we are thrilled that we are now able to showcase it to the world,” says Johnson. The campaign is integrated nationally through TV, OOH, radio, through digital activations as well as on social channels.

Looking outwards from the Matilda’s, it is clear the FIFA World Cup has absolutely taken off on a global scale. One of the central themes of the tournament is the promotion of gender equality and empowerment. Campaigns surrounding the tournament have sought to break barriers, challenge stereotypes and inspire fans worldwide. Storytelling, humour and creativity have been used alongside use of talent to create a strong connection to the audience. So, who’s taken home the gold for us?

Celebrating football heroes, past and present, it’s a refreshing, upbeat and fun take, that also acts as an education piece. It playfully tackles the gap in knowledge of female footballers, educating the audience of each players superpower in a kooky and attention grabbing way. Uplifting and eye-catching with a fresh mixed media vibe, Nike puts the spotlight on the awesomeness of women’s football in 2023. It’s a huge yes from us.

Adidas are celebrating the next gen of icons in football in their star-studded promo, with cameos from David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Jenna Ortega! The campaign aims to drive more global attention for the game and inspire other young women to join the likes of Alessia Russo, Lena Oberdorf and Mary Fowler. The film is sprinkled with subtle references to memorable moments for football super fans, including shirt numbers and iconic tournament balls. Partnering with FIFA Women’s World Cup since 1995, Adidas are hoping through this campaign to inspire the next generation to pursue their dream. Look out for this one on animated banners around the stadium!

This amazing, anime inspired ad by Nike stars the iconic American Women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe as she announces her retirement. With her own rad 80’s style theme song, the spot feels like the intro to a superhero TV show, with all the Sailor Moon, video game vibes to boot! The energy is unmatched. This piece is one of 11, that features global football stars Nike is championing from their ‘What The Football’ campaign.

Could this be the best World Cup ad ever?! You may have seen this one go viral, for going headfirst into combatting gender bias in football. What looks to be a highlight reel of the male football team, is quickly turned on its head after “Only Les Bleus can give us these emotions. But that’s not them you’ve just seen.” appears on screen. The entire footage is actually deepfake, and the goals are actually Les Bleues women's players! Orange France are sponsors of the French team, and we think there may be no better way to get people to confront their bias and tune in to the game.

Whilst there are winners, of course there has to be losers. We don’t make the rules! The below is a campaign from the US team that did not age well.

Nothing says confidence like promoting ‘The whole world is wondering, what’s it going to take to stop the US team’, with a montage of stereotypical scenes of other countries plotting to figure out how to defeat them.  Considering they were knocked out by Sweden (who didn’t get a mention in the ad) makes this incredibly awkward! The ad has been facing harsh criticism online since their knockout, being labelled as ‘arrogant’ and ‘cocky’, yikes!

We also wanted to give a shout out the branding of the World Cup in general. Even down to the visual branding, every piece is significant, from the vibrant colour palette drawing from the natural landscapes of Australia and New Zealand to bold typography representing the women playing. It’s energetic, vibrant and a true celebration of football and culture, with an important feeling of optimism to get the masses on board. It’s also been brought to life with great use of animation for broadcast. A true measure of success, they have managed the incredible feat of being universally embraced without any polarizing divides - a rarity for such a massive sporting event!

Sponsorships are a game-changer for businesses, offering a golden opportunity to expand reach, boost brand visibility, and grow brand loyalty on a broad scale. But let’s be honest they’re often done badly and not always on point strategically. If you’re feeling inspired from the World Cup examples, here are our top tips to stay on brand and leverage your sponsorships to deliver greatest ROI:

  1. Stay authentic to who you are as a brand. Look for alignment in values and purpose. If the partnership doesn’t align with your brand strategy, keep looking! When you share a common goal, the partnership feels more natural, and both parties thrive together.
  2. Keep it relevant to your audience. Is this something they’re passionate about? The sponsorship needs to resonate with your target to truly grow loyalty. They will see right through you if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons e.g. because your CEO likes the sport.
  3. Get creative. Don’t settle for the standard logo placement on a jersey and think that’s enough. Get creative and look at activations, events and leveraging the sports stars to make a lasting impact. Engage your audience with unique experiences, giveaways, or exclusive content. Everyone is doing campaigns, you need to stand out in order to win share of mind.

Sponsorships are a great way to launch a brand in a big way. Not only do they help to grow national brand awareness, but they can extend your audience base and drive genuine brand loyalty. Remember to stay authentic, keep it relevant and get creative. Always ask why and come back to your strategy. That’s your goal posts. Leverage the sponsorship in a way that will stand out from the crowd so you can turn it into powerful ROI. And whatever you do, please don’t be boring! Get creative, challenge the norms and pass it to Kerr!

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Guts Creative acknowledges the awesome culture and creativity of the traditional custodians of the Country where we work: Awabakal Nation and Worimi Nation. We walk humbly in their footsteps, support the protection of their invaluable knowledge, and are inspired to do better by Elders past and present.
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