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Fifa Women’s World Cup Brand Strategy Marketing

Despite record women’s football fandom, brands shouldn’t expect a ‘tap in’


By Nuria Hernández Crespo, Chief marketing officer, personal care

May 25, 2024 | 6 min read

Unilever’s Nuria Hernández Crespo is excited to welcome the Women’s World Cup to her doorstep in Brazil. She argues that brands must commit to more than run-of-the-mill sponsorships to help grow the game.

Rexona x Unilever

Man City x Rexona is one example of such partnerships needed

Last week, Brazil was announced as the host of the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2027, marking the first time the tournament will take place in South America. Following the record-breaking Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 held in Australia and New Zealand, we can expect the forthcoming tournament to be the biggest yet. While fan interest is expected to be at an all-time high, brands’ ability to capitalize on this interest will not be a ‘tap-in.’

Today is the first-ever United Nations World Football Day - marking the 100th anniversary of the first international football tournament with representation from all regions, which occurred during the Summer Olympic Games in 1924 in Paris. Over the last century, the game has become the world’s most popular sport, with an estimated four billion fans worldwide. Yet it is the last decade that has seen its value rocket. It is expected to reach $3.87bn by 2027, following sizable growth from $1.8bn in 2019 and $3.02bn in 2021.

Further to its booming growth, last year, two billion people tuned in to watch the Fifa Women’s World Cup, while two million attended matches in person, both all-time record highs. I was fortunate to experience the incredible atmosphere of these games firsthand and know directly from Unilever Personal Care brands as Official Sponsors the positive impact brands can have to inspire if they get it right. And as part of our multi-year partnership, I am confident that our brands – alongside many others – can help leverage women’s football even further.

The next level

For brands, sponsorship is no longer just about putting logos on ads; it’s about community engagement and forging emotional connections that extend beyond 90 minutes. With content generation growing at breakneck speed and attention spans waning, brands need to go beyond a one-sided conversation and be part of a dialogue with consumers. Sport transcends boundaries, and football, in particular, brings people together worldwide.

Here are three key learnings brands should be driving throughout the coming years.

Build appeal

First, building universal appeal into brand campaigns and activities. There was a 41% increase in the number of men in the UK who planned to tune into the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup versus the previous tournament in 2019, while 45% of viewers of the last Fifa Men’s World Cup were women. These statistics highlight flaws in the notion that adverts surrounding the women’s game should prioritize female products and vice versa with the men’s game. By only targeting your campaigns at male or female audiences based on who’s on the pitch, you’re ignoring a huge portion of the total audience.

Drive inclusivity

Second, driving inclusivity in the game. Football is a confidence-building sport, and yet girls around the world feel discouraged from playing the game, with six in 10 girls feeling like they don’t belong when playing football. As we look to bring a new generation of women into the sport, brands have a responsibility to drive inclusivity by reaching millions of girls around the world and inspiring them to get on the pitch and have the confidence to play.

Our biggest Unilever brand, Dove, has been championing inclusivity and acceptance for a long time. Its Self Esteem Project works with leading experts from fields including psychology, health, and body image, to create a program of world-class resources, many of which have been scientifically proven to significantly develop and increase body confidence and self-esteem in young people. It will have helped 250 million girls by 2030. It is also focused on sport in particular with its Body Confident Sport program, in partnership with Nike.

Invest in the next generation

Third, brands and sponsors have a responsibility to not just ride the wave of rapid interest in women’s football but invest in the next generation of talent at a grassroots level.

Eight in 10 girls believe they should be more encouraged to play football, so there is much work to be done across multiple stakeholders, including government, football associations, NGOs, and brands. Credit, therefore, to the UK Government and The Football Association (FA), who recently announced that they would make a substantial cash injection of £30m to the new Lionesses Futures Fund. This will go towards building 30 new sites with facilities designed to prioritize women’s and girls’ teams.

Likewise, one of Unilever’s brands, Rexona, also known as Sure or Degree, depending on where you live, aims to reach underserved communities globally, fostering confidence and participation in sports through its Breaking Limits Program. Equipping coaches and mentors around the world with the tools and skills to inspire young children, the program has worked with over 30 NGO partners; engaged with 11,000 coaches, teachers, and community leaders; and reached over one million young people aged 9-12.

100 years after the first international tournament, the women’s game is beginning to get the recognition and investment it deserves. Brands have a positive role to play in helping grow the game even more. To have a lasting impact, partnerships should be focused on more than the bottom line, fostering greater opportunities and inclusivity for the next generation of athletes and fans to ensure that we protect and enhance the game we love for the next 100 years.

Fifa Women’s World Cup Brand Strategy Marketing

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