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What Does The Lionesses’ Success Mean for Sport Sponsorship

05/08/2022

The 31st of July marked a day in history. A day that the Lionesses overcame challenges women’s sport has faced for decades. England are rightfully and finally the Euros 2022 WINNERS!!

Not only did this final mark 50 years since the ban on women’s football was lifted back in 1971, which denoted the game as ‘quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged’, but it also proved that women’s sport should no longer be a commercial after thought. The Lionesses have brought together a nation in so many ways and encouraged a generation to believe that female sporting success is indeed possible and should be awarded in the same form as men. The future of women’s sport is an exciting one and this is only the start.

Women’s football in particular has had a long road of challenging obstacles, however through increased visibility, sponsorship, broadcasting deals, and of course a major tournament on home soil, women’s football is emerging at the forefront of the sports industry. This summer’s Euros, beginning with England’s sold-out group game at Old Trafford and ending with a record-breaking audience at Wembley Stadium marks the culmination of the explosive upwards thrust of women’s football. So what impact has this had on Women’s Sport across Britain and Ireland?

Sponsorship

The Lionesses have certainly set a precedent for Women’s Sport across Britain and Ireland and with their success being supported by sponsors like Nike, Hello Fresh and Visa, the limits are endless to how far their outreach can go. PR experts have predicted that the team are reportedly poised to increase their sponsorship value tenfold after their win on Sunday, with individual players likely to secure lucrative brand deals and endorsements worth millions of pounds. For example, the right-back Lucy Bronze has already been swarmed with deals from the likes of Pepsi and Visa. This is a huge stepping stone in Women’s Sport which will encourage normalising female sporting achievement and engagement. This Nike advert highlights that sport is not prejudiced, whilst also encouraging society to look at football with a modern perspective where ‘women are protagonists’.

With Chloe Kelly’s goal celebration teasing a glimpse at the multiple Nike deals which will be offered to  the team for the foreseeable future, Nike have jumped at the opportunity to drive visibility in The Metro re-emphasising the message that Women have ‘brought it home’ and will continue to bring success to England.

The slogan, ‘THIS GIRL CAN’ derived from Sport England advertising is most definitely exemplified by the Lionesses. The achievement will stand for so much more than just a Euro’s win for England. The sport itself has always remained a significant part of our patriarchy. However for women, inequality has shrouded the sport for many years. Up until recently it seemed as though these absent years had hindered the women’s game, with second-class equipment, referee’s, limited visibility and of course a catastrophic pay gap. As of 2020, England’s men and women’s teams are now paid the same amount outside of major tournaments, and whilst this is a great step it is only a shuffle towards the end goal. Founder and CEO of ‘Girls Unites’ states that the Lionesses have been ‘invaluable to the growth of the women’s game. The next few months will be crucial in what we do with that momentum – how do we make sure we get that professional level success on an amateur level.’

Role Model Behaviour

The team have set records soaring not only in terms of their play but also in media outreach, nationwide engagement and prize money rocketing to £13.7 million. This monumental success for the sport comes with the opportunity to merge the gender gap in the industry and spike interest in the sport with younger generations as previously seen in 2019 post-Women’s World Cup, with participation in girls aged 12-15 increasing from 26% prior to the event, to 31% afterwards. The Euro’s aftermath is no different with grassroots clubs already ‘snowed under’ with requests for girls to join highlighting the ‘increased optimism about the future of the game’. In addition to this, facilities that have shaped the Lionesses’ footballing careers are to be named in their honour, proving an insight into the significance of this success for our country and the generation seeking sporting success.

In 1997, just 5 years after the FA planned to progress the game from grassroots to elite level, England established itself as having the most participation for girls and women.  This was 3 years ahead of expected progression and it continues to grow exponentially.  The Lionesses’ victory is due to further propel this momentum and surge into countries around the globe.  But there is still significant work to do – the Lionesses have just put a petition into governing to get all schools to offer football to girls at all levels

Broadcasting and Screening Heights

“What we’ve seen in the tournament already is that this hasn’t just been a change for women’s football but society in general, it’s about how we’re looked upon,” said Williamson, the Captain of England. The 2022 Women’s Euros has been named the best-attended tournament in history, with an average attendance of 18,544 and a widespread spectatorship of 574,875 in comparison to the previous record set at 240,555 in 2017. The final was watched by a staggering 17.4 million, with an average of 11 million viewers further championing the Women’s game and all it stands for. 

UEFA expects the tournament will have generated a revenue of more than $61.5M, almost four times the amount at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands, led by higher ticket sales as well as the rising value of media and commercial rights. The tournament has held great significance for the game and has attracted bigger audiences, more lucrative broadcast deals and higher-profile sponsors, helping to reverse years of neglect by clubs and the sport’s governing bodies. More than 250 million people around the world could watch the tournament, according to an estimate from EY, up from 178 million in 2017. (Financial Times)

Funding

Sport England has said it is difficult to tell exactly how big a boost the Euros had given to grassroots football, since numbers are still recovering after the onset of the Covid pandemic, but 460,000 more women started playing football after the World Cup in 2019 and the body has tried to “get ahead of the game” by announcing £1m in funding for adult recreational football last year. In addition to this splurge with great cause, there has been wide-spread effort from corporate investors to elevate the engagement of the game including the £1m boost from the National Lottery back in 2020, which now certainly has proven to be an invaluable price to pay for grassroot participation and wide-spread interest in women’s football following the win from the Lionesses’ on Sunday.

From the most recent predictions and record spikes post-Euros, this victory is the start of a paramount shift in Women’s Sport and the admiration the nation has for the players themselves. We should feel extremely proud of our Lionesses’ and the precedent they have set for the next generation of athletes and sports women. This is only the beginning, and there is still so much more to come from women’s football and we’re excited to watch it unfold. 

– Kristie McLaren

The Verve Experience Podcast

Verve is an agency celebrating 30 years at the top of the events, experiential and marketing industries. This podcast pulls from that wealth of experience, giving key insights from the past, tips for the future, and everything in between.

You can listen to all of  The Verve Experience episodes here: https://audioboom.com/channels/5045240

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