Navigating the FIFA Women's World Cup advertising universe

By Ruby Derrick | 15 August 2023

The FIFA Women's World Cup tournament has been a bonanza for advertisers to showcase their messages on the field before record-breaking audiences.

VOZ Total TV numbers for Saturday night’s quarterfinal game showed that more than 4 million tuned into the game itself, with another 945,000 watching the pre-game programming and 762,000 watching the post-game programming.

Karrin Kuyumcian, Initiative's strategy manager, said it’s well worth advertising for FIFA because the world is watching.  

“As the world continues to fragment and hyper-personalise, platforms with mass collective viewership are dwindling rapidly,” said Kuyumcian (pictured right). 

Karrin Kuyumcian.

The world game has weathered this storm, where FIFA especially has global unification and resonance, she said.  

“Zeroing into the WWC specifically, this is a watershed moment for women’s sports in Australia, as female athletes are not only inspiring the next generation of young girls, but young boys too. The opportunity to align your brand to this moment creating history is immeasurable.” 

For UM Australia's head of strategy - Sydney, Matt Furlong, the Women’s World Cup has turned out to be worth significantly more than many brands would have expected. 

Game ticket demand caught FIFA off guard, the viewing numbers on TV have been phenomenal for many games and then there is the power of being a supporter of a game that has such positive vibes around it, said Furlong.  

“I believe brands have certainly achieved a sizeable ROI and I would surmise that it will cost brands a lot more to be part of the mix next time round – one of our clients has already shown a quantifiable ROI on their investment halfway through the tournament,” he said.  

Taz Papoulias, head of media at Murmur-Group, said the total annual FIFA universe is worth between USD $5-$7billion per cycle (depending on World Cup location). 

IFA organises its accounts on a 4 year cycle in line with the World Cup, notes Papoulias. 

“This represents income from all revenue channels including marketing, sponsorship and hospitality, but does not include FIFA-associated income streams which are almost impossible to calculate,” he said. 

“As an example EA Sports has forecasted revenues of $20billion over a 20-year period through EA soccer game sales and it is reported they pay FIFA approximately $150million per year in royalties.” 

Furlong (pictured right) at UM said the agency has been monitoring how brands have activated locally and across the world.  

Matt Furlong

Moments like these can be fuel for agencies to continue to up their game and find new media opportunities and push themselves to go bigger for their clients, he said. 

As with other big advertising moments, like The Super Bowl, it is a chance to look at work from around the world and be energised by it. From a creative point of view, I loved the Orange AI ad from France. The potential for media to accelerate a creative idea like that one, would have been huge,” said Furlong. 

He notes that the work the agency has done with Optus and Optus Sport continues to show its on-going support for women’s football and leans into a property that furthers the 'It starts with Yes' positioning.   

“I am also loving the adidas building wraps as you come off the harbour bridge, and kind of kicking myself that we didn’t do it,” he said.  

Papoulias too has been tracking FIFA advertisements, along with every other marketer he said.  

When it comes to creativity, entertainment and product education, said Papoulias, the Football World Cup and NFL Superbowl present the worlds’ finest standards of ads.  

Most recently a stand out for me has been the 'Coca-Cola: A Kind Of Magic' by Universal Music Group,” he said. 

Taz Papoulias

There are two reasons in which Papoulias (pictured right) believes brands should advertise during the tournament.  

Firstly, he notes, is that football is the most watched sport in the world.  

“It offers reach second to none in terms of sport across all sectors and demographics regardless of age, sex, income and location. It represents the true definition of mass market,” he said. 

“Secondly, in terms of targeting psychographic and behavioural traits, FIFA offers marketers the opportunity to be highly targeted within a specific sports category that has mass market reach.” 

For Kuyumcian, who has been tracking the ads from a media point of view, said what’s exciting for her is the scale and innovation marketers are bringing to their FIFA alignment and promotion. 

It's great to see brands giving the women’s game the energy and visibility they deserve,” she said.  

“However, I'd personally love to see brands not only sponsor this major moment in sporting history, but to also invest and play the long-term game, on and off the pitch.” 

This year’s Women’s World Cup has been the host of a number of viral ads that have left everybody talking. In particular, the French national football team’s commercial that spun gender using AI garnered global attention on a pressing topic. 

The benefits of being a sponsor for FIFA are questioned, especially if they’re getting outdone by these viral ads.  

Kuyumcian at Initiative believes there’s nothing more viral and contagious than the energy around the World Cup right now. 

If I was a marketer getting outdone by viral ads, I’d be asking myself to pick up my game. Sure, there’s regulations and restrictions, but winners don’t make excuses,” she said.  

If you're treating this opportunity with the right level of respect, you’ll get the right level of returns. 

There are fewer and fewer truly shared moments like the world is experiencing with the FIFA Women’s World Cup and being part of something like this is powerful for brands, said Furlong. 

He notes that some brands have been able to capitalise on a relatively low cost of entry into a major tournament that has taken many by surprise from an interest point of view.  

“I imagine many more brands will be getting involved in the future, and this risks them being seen as a brand jumping on the bandwagon verse truly supporting women’s football. Optus, for example, have had a long-term commitment to women’s sport, not just this World Cup,” he said.  

For global brands he and his team work with, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a cultural moment where the world’s eyes are on the event, said Furlong.  

“It is an opportunity to activate in key markets across the world to evolve their story and continue to build strong brand attributes among key audiences. It can build on their established communication platforms while allowing the narrative to evolve or it lets those brand tell new narratives,” he said.  

These opportunities aren’t just limited to major brands, however.  

Furlong said that for local brands, it's also a moment to continue to show their on-going support for women’s football, and women’s sport in general, by leaning into a property that has the focus of the nation on it.  

“It’s a great alignment to a lot of our client’s values,” he said.  

The control factor of being a sponsor also reduces the risk, said Furlong. 

Arguably the compliance of being a sponsor can be limiting from some perspectives and you might not have the freedom compared to a brand hijacking and creating guerrilla style activations. It’s a risk balance to a degree.” 

Papoulias said that these environments offer extremely high dwell time and engagement because audiences expect world class content.   

You do not need to be the best, spend the most, or be the most creative to benefit from ad spots,” he said. 

FIFA and bodies supported by FIFA also push audiences to their platforms which means exponential reach purely by association. 

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