How Advertising During the Women's World Cup Helps Embolden a New Generation of Female Athletes

It’s a sponsorship toward a much-needed change in sports

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Have you ever imagined a beer brand sponsoring the FIFA Women’s World Cup? Well, wake up: It’s 2019, and it’s happening in your ad break.

Today, 30 million girls play soccer around the world. That’s a lot. That equals an entire country of women playing soccer. In communities across the globe, soccer is more than just a game: It is a form of identity. Female athletes are finally getting a lot more coverage, increasing women’s visibility in sports media. Culture is shifting and brands are taking advantage of a growing audience and interest in female sports.

In this context, it’s great to see brands such as Adidas, Hulu, Visa and Budweiser understanding the value of sponsoring the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. But when brands do support this year’s Women’s World Cup, they are not just sponsoring a tournament, they are sponsoring a lot more than that.

It’s paramount for the marketing industry to continue to create a global platform for female empowerment through sports.

They are sponsoring women playing in a field where you usually see men. They are sponsoring the fact that these women are being respected and appreciated for what they’re doing. They are sponsoring the notion that boys don’t matter more than girls because their matches are on TV. They are sponsoring the concept of there being no limits on what women can or cannot do.

They are sponsoring women asking for a corner kick, complaining about it and then getting pissed with the referee. They are sponsoring this as normal and acceptable female behavior. They are sponsoring that women can get pissed and that doesn’t mean they’re “crazy.”

They are sponsoring the women asking other women to run faster without this meaning that they’re “bossy.” They are sponsoring women associated with teamwork. They are sponsoring that women can be competitive. They are sponsoring that seeing 22 women in the same place doesn’t equal a catfight. They are sponsoring that women can run. Fast.

They are sponsoring that women can score a goal—many times. They are sponsoring that women can be strong. They are sponsoring that women can play in a full stadium. They are sponsoring that women can break TV viewing records.

They are sponsoring women singing their national anthems and bringing a sense of national pride, a place that is usually reserved for men in history. They are sponsoring hashtags like #SeeHerInSports, #DareToShine and #SeeHer. They are sponsoring female athletes’ names becoming trending topics. They are sponsoring women being protagonists, not spectators.

They are sponsoring shutting down the haters and the trolls that think women’s soccer isn’t real soccer. They are sponsoring and bringing a bit more equality in probably the most significant salary gap of all times. They are sponsoring the world getting interested in women during times when it’s needed the most. They are sponsoring journalists writing about women’s skills in the field, not what they were wearing when they accomplished their feats.

They are sponsoring a new generation of women considering soccer as a sport. They are sponsoring a 6-year-old girl in Brazil, Japan, the U.S. or Turkey seeing women in a nontraditional role and understanding that there are no limits on what women can do. If that girl you are seeing on TV can do it, so can you. And that’s huge.

The cultural value of this World Cup is more significant than we think. It’s not just a banner on a stadium or an ad in a commercial break; it’s a cultural event that’s setting an agenda and shifting culture. It’s great to see brands finally investing in women’s sports, not because it makes sense financially, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

This type of support shows how brands can have a positive impact and move society forward. It’s paramount for the marketing industry to continue to create a global platform for female empowerment through sports. If the world gets behind women’s soccer, the commercial opportunities are clear. More importantly, this backing provides chances for women to make a mark as skillful, strong athletes and team players in a way that could provide positive role models and influence a whole new generation of female players. Brands can—and should—play a bigger role in this shift for women’s sports, for the benefit of women and society as a whole.

As a brand, sponsor the change you want to see in the world. Invest in it. Put media behind it. PR the hell out of it. Tweet about it. Invest in the change. That’s the only way to make it happen.

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This story first appeared in the July 8, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.