Top 8 Brand Activations for Women’s Sport
The news that Pepsi is sponsoring the UEFA’s women’s league is probably the most exciting. Not just because it’s another big brand supporting women’s sport. It’s also because of the possibilities of how the brand will activate the sponsorship.
A long time ago, I worked on some of Pepsi’s ad campaigns, featuring, among others, David Beckham, Britney and Shakira. The agency I worked for came up with the idea of turning Concorde blue. Which in itself was a big, bold idea. But kudos to Pepsi for actually going with it.
So I am excited to see what Pepsi does with their sponsorship. It also got me thinking about how other brands have activated their sponsorship of women’s sport.
Having done some research, all the content seems to follow a pattern:
Step 1: Girl shows off sporting prowess or shows interest in playing a sport
Step 2: Girl overcomes some sort of adversity
Step 3: Girls come together and have the best time playing sport.
This is fine. It’s nice. Some of these ads are inspiring. Some aren’t. But surely it’s time to do something different?
So where can we look to for inspiration? I have picked out my top eight brands that have stood out in how they have activated a partnership with women’s sport. I did try to find ten but failed which in itself says something about the commercialisation of women’s sport.
As ‘official hydration partner’ of the England women’s football team, Lucozade used the World Cup 2019 to their advantage. They rewrote the infamous football supporter song ‘Three Lions’ and produced a lovely advert featuring the players. They put two of the England team players on their bottles – the first time they had featured anyone on their bottles. They also offered 90,000 minutes of free pitch time through Powerleague and Goals to get more women involved in the sport. Oh and their head of marketing is a woman.
Ok it’s not a brand but in 2015, Norwegian broadcaster NRK Sport put together a spoof video to promote the Norwegian women’s football team. It’s very good, it’s funny and it answers all the stereotypes or criticism other people may have about women playing football.
For me, Guinness and rugby go together like fish and chips. As part of their ‘made of more’ series, they created Liberty Fields, a five minute documentary and a shorter advert about a Japanese women’s rugby team fighting for the chance to play rugby in the 1980s and who eventually played in the Women’s Rugby World Cup. The best thing is that the advert was Guinness’ main activation for the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2019.
As a sponsor of the German women’s football team, Commerzbank took a similar approach to NRK and created an advert to build awareness of the team, before the women’s World Cup in 2019. The advert poked fun at the fact nobody knew who they were and highlighted their achievements in a really engaging manner.
Lidl Ireland has sponsored Ladies Gaelic Football in Ireland since 2016. To launch their status as ‘Official Retail Partner’, they created a spoof advert for the ‘ladyball’ taking everything that’s wrong with advertising to women and putting it into an ad. It might not work today but it was a brave way to kick off any partnership.
Suncorp is a huge financial services brand in Australia. They sponsor the professional netball league in Australia and have developed a lovely campaign around ‘team girl’. This spot includes all the things we’ve come to expect to see in an ad on women’s sport – girl isn’t very good, girls come together and support her, girl succeeds. However it’s done in such an uplifting, fun way, it just seems to work.
Women’s ice hockey in North America has experienced a bit of a reputation crisis in the past few years. In early 2019, 200 female hockey players from Canada and America announced a boycott of the game as their leagues didn’t pay a liveable wage or any health insurance. Following discussions and revised terms and a #forthegame social media movement, the players formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, a non profit that provides financial resources, health insurance and support to current and upcoming female players.
Budweiser announced its partnership with the PWHPA in September and in November, they released an advert which was essentially a rallying cry for other sponsors to step up and support the game.
Budwesier has form in this area – they did the same for the NWSL with this advert, calling for more brands to support the league.
I’m not sure if it worked but plaudits for supporting the future of the game.
I couldn’t finish this list without mentioning Nike. The brand has done some amazing ads and they’re lucky to have access to a host of famous faces to appear in those ads. For this list, I chose their ‘what are girls made of?’ advert because it portrays more than just sporting prowess. It’s an insight into what makes a successful female athlete.
So it’s over to you Pepsi. Please don’t disappoint. Maybe next year, I’ll be able to create a top ten list.