Where are all the Women’s World Cup Campaigns?

With just over a week to go until the Fifa Women’s World Cup kicks off, some feel there has been an apparent lack of PR activity so far around the football competition.

“The UK build-up to the Women’s World Cup has been eerily quiet,” observes Jenny Mitton, director and women’s sport lead at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment.

Alhough a handful of notable executions have launched, including ITV’s campaign video and Weetabix’s TV campaign, it’s fair to say that the attention around this year’s global tournament isn’t what one might expect after last year’s victory in the Women’s Euros.

Some believe this could be partly down to those organising the tournament.

“Fifa only confirmed UK broadcasters and major sponsors in June, so we’ve not seen the usual build-up of big brand campaigns and exciting TV promos – which is a real miss,” says Mitton.

“It’s the broadcaster that leads the way in generating excitement,” agrees Chris Allen, managing director at Pitch.

With the football tournament taking place in Australia, Allen emphasises that “there’s a business imperative to ensure fans know where and when they can watch, and who their pundits will be”.

With Fifa, the BBC and ITV having come to an agreement on rights less than a month ago, Allen says it makes sense for everyone to be “slightly behind the curve in their planning”.

“We’re also in the middle of a men’s and women’s home Ashes series, Wimbledon, and the British Grand Prix took place at the weekend,” points out Mitton. “There’s plenty of sport filling the papers.”

With regards to consumer sentiment towards the Women’s World Cup, SPORTbible editor Tom Marshall Bailey believes things aren’t looking too promising yet either.

“We have definitely noticed that there hasn’t been a strong appetite for content ahead of the tournament this year,” he says.

“This is in comparison to other tournaments where predictions, team selection and general event updates have performed well.”

The publication, part of the LADbible Group, often works with brands on social media campaigns, so this perceived lack of activity around the tournament doesn’t bode well.

But despite the multiple challenges the Women’s World Cup has faced in its lead-up this year, there’s a sense that it’s all still to play for.

‘Audiences love feeling part of a community’

“Although to date there hasn’t been much in the way of marketing in the run-up to the World Cup, I’m sure that will change in the coming days and weeks,” says Allen.

He continues: “As is often the case with major tournaments, including the most recent Men’s World Cup, brands want to activate in close proximity to the start of the tournament, and during it, in order to maximise eyeballs for their campaigns.”

“We’ve seen very little in the UK from the Fifa Women’s World Cup partners,” agrees Mitton.

“McDonald’s and Unilever only announced their partnerships in May and Budweiser in June (bundled in with Men’s World Cup deals), so they’ve not had time to develop fully integrated marketing campaigns.

“PR is the one channel available to them where they can quickly turn around engaging activations, so I’m excited to see how they show up once the tournament kicks off.”

In terms of the work that has surfaced so far, Mitton praises Mars Wrigley-owned brand Kind Snacks for its 100-metre message of support for the Lionesses, which appeared underneath the team’s Heathrow flightpath thanks to PR agency Ready10.

SPORTbible’s Marshall Bailey echoes the idea that we’re yet to see the best of the Women’s World Cup activity, explaining that “audiences love feeling part of a community”, and he is “confident that once the tournament begins, fans will get behind it”.

The sports publication aims to “focus on the moments that matter within – looking for those viral snippets, and tapping into how fans are reacting and engaging with the game” – a strategy that brands and their PR agencies would be wise to follow.

“During the Women’s Euros last year, our content performed really strongly, clearly gaining traction as the team progressed,” says Marshall Bailey. “The audience does want to hear about the tournament, it just comes down to selecting the right moments.”

Is it too late to use the Women’s World Cup as a PR hook?

As was made clear during last year’s Women’s Euros, hosted in the UK, Mitton confirms that “you don’t need to be a long-term sponsor to show up in women’s football and make an impact”.

At the time, she recalls how “brands suddenly jumped on women’s football as the Lionesses reached the final”, something “which can work, but only if you show up authentically”.

For inspiration, Mitton directs PRs to US-based campaigns around women’s football, which she says tend to focus on the talents of the team, rather than purpose-led comms – a stronger driver of engagement, according to the Women’s Sport Trust.

Although momentum around the women’s sport has undoubtedly begun to snowball over the past decade, ultimately, Mitton says: “The World Cup is the biggest women’s sport event on the planet. Coupled with the fact that the Lionesses are current European Champions and football is this country’s number-one passion – I’m surprised we’ve not seen more brands jump on this opportunity.”

“Women’s football is also at a point where the focus for brand campaigns is moving away from the barriers players face to the excitement and skill behind the game.

“I do expect the level of public attention to change as the tournament progresses – we see this with most sports events. However, my advice to brands is to be first out of the blocks – don’t wait for everyone else to activate.”

This article was first published in PR Week.

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