Post-match marketing: what SMEs can learn from the Women’s World Cup

As the final whistle blows, SMEs can still keep scoring marketing wins off the pitch.

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After a heart-stopping match, the Women’s World Cup 2023 has come to an emotional end with Spain’s win on Sunday.

The wins, however, have extended far beyond the pitch this season.

Even before the World Cup began, 90% of the advertising inventory was purchased. Australia’s Matildas sold out their inaugural match of the tournament. 6.43 million people tuned in to watch the US national team’s draw against the Netherlands, making it the most watched group stage match in women’s FIFA World Cup history.

Undoubtedly, this year’s iteration has pushed women’s football into the mainstream.

Although marketing teams aren’t competing for the World Cup, they have an equally stellar striking opportunity to score goals for their brands. After all, women’s football is blessed with an exponentially growing viewership plus the chance for innovative marketeers to disrupt the status quo.

Levelling the playing field

It’s no secret that women’s sports is severely underfunded in comparison to men’s. Statistics show that male sports professionals earn anywhere between 15% to 100% more than female athletes.

A study by FIFPRO, the global professional footballers’ union, revealed that 29% of women players say they received no payments from their national teams for World Cup qualifying tournaments.

This year’s tournament was no different in terms of chronic gender inequality blighting the beautiful game.

Mothers of the players of Jamaica’s national football team had to set up a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of competing in the World Cup. The Nigerian women’s national team, the Super Falcons, even threatened to boycott their first World Cup match to protest against wage theft.

While a marketing campaign will not change this reality,, brands still have an opportunity to drive social change and have already taken the first strides on this front.

For instance, Orange’s ad highlighting the triumphs of the female French national team challenged the gender stereotypes that underpin football. The ad went viral with over 5.3 million views on YouTube, sparking a conversation about how underestimated female players are.

Adidas has also taken an empowering stance with its ad ‘Play Until They Can’t Look Away’ which featured football female star players Alessia Russo, Lena Oberdorf and Mary Fowler.

While the policies of how female football players are viewed and treated heavily depend on the politics of FIFA and national football associations, brands have the audience and exposure to spark public debate and advocate for change. Even if SMEs don’t have the same reach as Orange or Adidas.

Avoiding a marketing red card

The worst trap that SMEs can fall into is disingenuous campaigns.

We see it happening every year. How many companies keep greenwashing their operations to entrap eco-conscious consumers? How many more enterprises jump on Black History Month or Pride just to have their operations completely negate the ethos of those events?

Gender-washing in marketing follows the same mechanics and SMEs should tread carefully to avoid falling into the blacklist of companies that shallowly shout about their values that are, in reality, valueless.

Marketing is no longer about selling products to a customer who has wants and needs. Marketing is about sporting the values of your company proudly and establishing meaningful connections with future clients.

Customers are tired of being sold to. They’re actively seeking companies that speak to their values and offer experiences, rather than ones that only want to get their money.

The Women’s World Cup has become a litmus test for the mission statements of brands that have hopped on the football bandwagon. Customers want to see marketing that feels authentic and meaningful, not something that is a one-month stunt to drive sales.

Consistency is key, both in football and in marketing. The companies that make it all the way to the final, rather than being knocked out early in the group stage, will be the ones that are driven by cohesive beliefs that seep into their day-to-day marketing.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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