Remember the frenzy over the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup? The crowds in the streets? The viewing parties in apartments and bars? The social media explosion?
Fox Sports is betting World Cup fever will return as the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team takes the pitch for the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 on June 6. The network planned to use its telecast of the Daytona 500 today to launch a $10 million, 100-day promotional push for its first World Cup coverage.
And in typically bombastic Fox fashion, the campaign has a message for the rest of the world: "America has a score to settle."
The emotional ad begins with the 2-1 loss to Belgium that eliminated the men's team last July. Images include fallen goalkeeper Tim Howard, crushed fans, crowds dispersing.
The voiceover begins: "It didn't end when the final whistle sounded. When the fans headed home. It didn't end when the bars shut their doors. And the TVs went dark. And the celebrations stopped. And the paint washed away. Because the final chapter of this story is just getting started."
As the inspirational music swells, we quick-cut from U.S. men's player Jermaine Jones to U.S. women's stars Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach training for the World Cup. The women are so pumped up they practically charge through the camera. (Fox's in-house creative department created the spot, which was directed by film and music video director Joseph Kahn.)
The underdog U.S. men's team's surprise run created a "cultural whirlwind" last summer, noted Robert Gottlieb, Fox Sports' evp of marketing. Fox's creative strategy is to show the torch being passed from one U.S. team to the other, he said.
"The moment really hasn't passed; it's taken a pause. This is a story, and a narrative, of this World Cup season that isn't over," said Gottlieb. "America walked off the field defeated that day—but that was not the end of the story. The story's going to end this year in Canada. This time, from my mouth to God's ears, America's not going to walk off defeated."
Now, Fox's "Nothing Is Over" rallying cry may sound like Rambo in First Blood, but Gottlieb and Fox "believe very strongly" the country will rally around the women's team this summer.
Some critics will see the "America has a score to settle" line as jingoistic. But Gottlieb says it works on several fronts. For one, the U.S. women's team hasn't won the World Cup since 1999, when Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain became household names. Despite ranking as the national team's all-time leading scorer, Wambach has never won a World Cup. Other stars are burning to avenge their loss to Japan in the 2011 FIFA World Cup.
The "It's Not Over" spot will kick off what Fox says will be the biggest network marketing push for a Women's World Cup. There will be more TV ads focusing on individual players such as Morgan and Wambach, according to Gottlieb. Fox is planning a 30-channel media roadblock around a 30-second version of "It's Not Over" that will air Tuesday at 8 p.m.
On the promotional side, Wambach, Christie Rampone and Kelley O'Hara were honorary starters at the Daytona 500. Fox also plans to erect "weather-controlled" digital billboards in New York and Los Angeles that will show the team training in the real-time weather conditions of those cities. The billboards will ask, "They're getting ready. Are you?"
As soccer gains popularity within the U.S., Simon Wardle, chief strategy officer of Octagon Worldwide, believes World Cup fever will reignite when the U.S. women's team starts play this summer.
"It's one of the few occasions where Team USA can take on the world," he said.