Luck can be defined as the point at which opportunity meets preparation, as was perfectly illustrated when English women’s domestic football turned professional in the early summer of 2018. Snack Media was already the Digital Media Partner of the PFA Bristol Street Motors Fans’ Player of the Month Awards and the decision to add a category for the FA Women’s Super League last season was a no brainer for all three parties involved. Thus, Bristol Street Motors had become one of the first commercial partners of the new era of English women’s football and Snack one of its key media champions.
The last 10 months have been a steep learning curve for us ‘early adopters’ as it has for all the new partners. The female players are very different from their male counterparts and the fans engage in different, perhaps more modern, ways. Interaction via social platforms feels much more real whilst established media, both traditional and digital, play a less important role. This can be clearly demonstrated by the ad-hoc nature of the coverage of the game on broadcast media.
There is no set appointment comparable to Sky Sports’ Super Sunday or Monday Night Football leaving fans to scrabble around on a weekly basis to find out who is playing when and on what channel and/or platforms. However, a threshold has been reached and now change is happening. There have been a number of significant moves by both brands and the media during the 2018/19 season, but the two key drivers domestically have been Barclays’ three year financial commitment to the FA WSL and the promotion of both Manchester United and Spurs from the Championship to the Super League. From next season, all of the ‘Big Six’ English clubs are now represented at the top tier of the game and have integrated their women’s teams into the main structure of their clubs.
This summer’s FIFA World Cup is the final piece of the jigsaw and it is now time for others to realise the women’s game is here to stay and presents a virtually brand new opportunity for brands to engage with a diverse segment of engaged fans. Whilst passionate and informed debates around the USA’s 13-0 demolition of Thailand or the size of the goals, the pitch and the ball have shown that the media has matured in its approach to women’s football coverage, it will be interesting to see what space is given over to the 19/20 FA WSL once the steamroller that is the English Premier League rolls back into town. For brands there is no such problem, women’s football presents a potentially once in a lifetime chance to gain a foothold among the top names in the nation’s number one obsession.
It doesn’t matter whether they fund this from their core marketing budgets or from other sources such as money set aside for Corporate Social Responsibility projects, there will be many opportunities coming up over the next few years. Those organisations that prepare to take them now will be the ones that both give and gain the most benefit and in a few years’ time they will be considered the ‘lucky’ ones.
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See Twitter, Visa, Endeavor, Engine Sports and the Football Writers’ Association talk about next steps for the women’s football. Where should we be with the game and how do we get there? Join the conversation on July 11th at the offices of Howard Kennedy LLP in Central London. Get your ticket below.