Marketing and commercialisation have been attributed to the male football universe for the largest part. But as the women appear more and more during broadcasting, in Social Media campaigns and especially on the clubs’ and associations’ digital properties, the women’s football is given the opportunity to finally establish its very own power more widely than ever before. It’s about time to change perception, but also to dip into the hidden potentials that the unique female football has to offer. The DFB has launched a distinct kit for the German women to wear at the soon to begin World Cup, while the UEFA even started a campaign to strengthen the women’s game further. Broadcasters and OTT services turn their attentions to the game and partners are increasingly interested in taking part in this promising journey of growing the value of women’s football brand.
A great time for a diverse football experience – and off the pitch, too
The women’s World Cup in France starts 7 June and of course we do see more female football stars in digital media right now. Football has always been captured as a men’s sport, in the media and in the mindset of some. For sure, all the women’s competitions haven’t been there for so many decades – Manchester United for example only reinstated a women’s team last year. And while Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba or Cristiano Ronaldo earn incredible sums and the limelight, even the most outstanding female footballers are exposed to totally inapproriate behaviour. Like Ada Hegerberg, the absolute superstar playing for Olympique Lyon. After collecting the first Ballon D’Or for a woman in December 2018, moderator Martin Solveig infamously asked her if she could twerk.
It’s just that kind of impudence, bordering sexual harrassment, that is still undermining the value and growth of women’s football. Thankfully, there are more and more examples of the women’s teams being appreciated increasingly, especially in the media. A very recent reminder: Hegerberg scored a 16-minute hattrick in the Women’s Champions League final against the FC Barcelona to give Lyon a fourth successive title.
Not only does she have 255 goals in 254 games now – and Ada Hegerberg is still only 23 years old –, but she also has a collection of 5 league titles, 4 domestic cups and 4 Champions Leagues.
Hegerberg herself, though, stated that things don’t develop very quickly in women’s football. That’s why the UEFA launched a Time for Action strategy in order to augment appreciation for the women’s game. The initiative shall double the number of female players by 2024. UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said:
Women’s football is the football of today. It is not the football of tomorrow. It is UEFA’s duty as European football’s governing body to empower the women’s game. So UEFA will put significant financial investment into the sport, underlining that it dares to aim high and make European football as great as it can be. The actions that we propose and commit to in 2019 will lead to a greater, more professional and more prosperous game by 2024. Time for action.
UEFA’s head of women’s football, Nadine Kessler, thinks that football is more than just sports and therefore has to open up for women even more, so that cultural changes are embraced as well:
Women’s football is football, and football has a huge ability to impact beyond the field of play and break down cultural and social barriers.
The DFB recently launched the new kits for the German women’s team, which are quite popular by now.
But it’s clear to see that the women’s team isn’t quite valued the same as the men’s. The shirt itself is only available in women’s tailoring at Adidas – because demand normally is so small, as the manufacturer told Die WELT. Therefore, men don’t have the chance to sport the nice kit, unless they wear the version aligned to female proportions. And maybe the women’s national teams only appear more in our sports media environment due to the imminent World Cup. The Commerzbank, partner for the DFB’s female team, provocatively advertises the team by incorporating prejudices and the rather unknown status of the female players.
More sponsoring and partner deals for women – but there’s a huge pay gap
It is not all about the World Cup, though. The recent Women’s Champions LEague final, for example, was streamed live in the US by the OTT service B/R Live for the very first time, as SportsPro Media report. The service also posted behind-the-scenes content on Instagram in the stories during the run-up to the game.
In other news, the BBC have extended a deal to show the Women’s FA Cup in until the 2024/25 season. Highlight reels and short form videos will be available over various BBC digital platforms as the broadcaster also has an initiative in place, called ‘Change The Game’. The BBC will also develop podcasts and documentaries focusing on women’s sports more often. And, as the BBC reported a few months back, Barclays, famously the title sponsors for the men’s Premier League in England, will become title sponsors for the women’s league, too. That sponsorship will be worth close to 10 million pounds – miles behind sponsorhip money in the men’s domain. It’s still a step in the right direction, thinks the FA’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons:
It’s a real landmark moment in the development of the women’s game. We obviously want to get more fans and more revenue behind the game, making sure it’s secure and sustainable for the future. But also the investment in schools makes sure lots of girls get the chance to play football, which is our pipeline for the future.
And yes, sponsoring is becoming more important for the women’s teams as brands start to realise how important that very universe could be for them. For example, Virgin Media, sleeve sponsors of the FC Southampton, now sponsor the their respective women’s team as well, for the very first time. Marieanne Spacey-Cale, Southampton’s Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football, commented on the website:
It’s fantastic that such a prestigious brand as Virgin Media has decided to make this commitment to the Women’s team.
Meanwhile, in the US Ticketmaster has extended a deal with the United States Soccer Federation that provides ticketing for the men’s and the women’s teams. Women’s football might have more popularity in the US. But it’s also quite favoured in Germany. Initiatives are needed to make it an alternative in more countries and markets. Media need to embrace it, because it does offer inspiration and a ways to possibly reach new audiences as well.
For now however, we can state that women’s football is still rated second-class, at least when it comes to money invested in it. Flyeralarm is becoming the Women’s Bundesliga’s title sponsor and is expected to pay 1,2 million Euro per year for that, earning the right to feature on the teams’ jerseys and in the stadiums, too. As a comparison, that amount of money is earned in the space of two to three weeks by Lionel Messi. The huge pay gap is clear to see. The Sun reports that Aga Hegerberg, closest to Messi right now in the women’s domain, earns a mere 300.000 pounds a year. Average wages for OL’s female players are believed to be at around 145.000 pounds a year – and they’re Europe’s finest. That alone calls for change in the perception of football. Because the sport is not only men’s football. For every Messi there is a Hegerberg, for every Cristiano Ronaldo there is a Dzsenifer Marozsán. There should be heroines as well as heroes; young fans should be made aware of both and it’s on the media and on brands to embrace this as an opportunity. Thus, they can even augment revenues and reach and eventually make women’s football popular enough to grant the players more perspectives and better wages. The current status quo is very much explainable, no question about that. But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t change. Whoever realises the underlying potential will be frontrunners in a very promising environment.