International Women’s Day: The Bandwagon

March 27, 2018
Nicola McKelvey

8th March was International Women’s Day. Some brands saw it as a way to do something that would empower and inspire women while some saw it as an opportunity to do something to get attention, no matter what.

Some, like Mattel with its Inspiring Women collection, did it to great success. Others, like Brew Dog to lesser success.

The same issue arises with women’s sport. When brands decide to get involved with a female sports property, in a lot of sports, they’re not guaranteed a massive reach via a traditional TV audience. They therefore need to amplify the sponsorship to reach a wider audience. But how can they do this without facing a consumer backlash? Here are a few tips.

Keep it simple, stupid

It’s not a new theory but it still rings true. The issue with Brew Dog was that although the idea was nice, it just didn’t pass the elevator challenge. If you can’t explain it in 8 seconds, then it’s too complicated.

The best activations are one that you automatically ‘get’ without the need for a press release explaining the theory behind the idea.

More than lip service

Look beyond a one-off marketing stunt and ask what legacy you could leave behind to actually positively impact women and their lives?

As McDonald’s found out when it turned the M in its logo upside down, there needs to be more behind an idea than a big marketing stunt. The fast food giant received a lot of criticism for not paying its employees a living wage rather than being praised for celebrating women.

Be authentic

Don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it or because you feel you should be doing something. Do it because it means something to your brand. The Mr Men and Little Miss books launched a Little Miss Inventor book which meets a need while remaining core to what the brand stands for and its values.

Avoid stereotypes

Especially the lazy ones. A woman who irons, does the childcare, gets a pedicure. Do your research, challenge the stereotypes and show something aspirational that appeals to your audience.


So in the world of women’s sport, who has done it well? There are some lovely adverts featuring female athletes such as This Girl Can by Sport England and Nike’s ‘what are girls made of?’.  However to find great examples of brands activating their sponsorship of a women’s sport, I’ve had to look across the pond. Two campaigns stood out from the past few years:

Nike and the US Women’s Soccer National Team

Under Armour and the US Gymnastics team

Why do these work? They’re authentic, they focus on female achievement and they’re inspirational.

It’s not easy but as you can see, the way to activate a women’s sport is pretty much the same as activating any sport. Use the property wisely, follow the tips above and tap into the passion that sport evokes in people and it’s easy… isn’t it?

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