Have we missed an open goal by not capitalising on the scale and popularity of the Women's World Cup?

Ben Smith
By Ben Smith | 11 August 2023
Ben Smith.

Ben Smith / EDGE Executive Creative Director

I’m loving the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup. So is everyone else it seems – and it’s easy to see why.

There have been bags of goals, the atmosphere in stadiums has been fantastic, football is on TV every day, with the Matildas win against Denmark the biggest TV event of the year attracting 3.56M viewers - more than the 2022 AFL and NRL grand finals, the kits are spectacular and there’s a buzz about the women's game which I hope continues forever. And with reasonably priced tickets, and games at different grounds across the region, it’s so accessible.

But, there’s a but…

In the build-up to the tournament, it was all very low-key from advertisers.

Since kick-off, it seems some brands have jumped on the football bandwagon, but the majority perhaps underestimated how popular the 2023 Women's World Cup would be.

So, my question - have we, as a local industry, missed an open goal by not capitalising on an event that’s captured the country’s attention?

Overseas markets have done a great job leveraging a highly engaged audience with this year's World Cup.

For me it’s the dream creative brief - football is culture and an emotional game, so it feels like an easy win.

This viral ad from Orange - ‘Les Bluees Highlights’ plays on the prejudiced views that surround the women's game. The deep fake execution is flawless and I love how it proves to the doubters that women's football is as exciting as men's and with any luck, it’ll engender a positive change of opinion.

I love the confidence and energy of Nike’s 2023 World Cup film ‘What the Football’, which celebrates the women’s game with no comparisons to the men's and is packed full of female footy stars. I dig the multiverse vibe too, which Nike seems to be doubling down on right now.

I enjoyed the moody remake of ‘In the air tonight’ in the ‘Flip The Game’ spot based around Sam Kerr’s celebration. And it’s a different approach to focus on her iconic celebration instead of the convention to show players playing.

I found ‘Unseen Signals’ from Calm really powerful and thought-provoking. I imagine it would be really disruptive to see on TV. Hopefully, it will spark conversation and action around suicide prevention.

And of course, the World Cup has traditionally been a platform for some of the most inspiring advertising. Just recently, the insightful ‘The Game Before the Game’, the fantastic ‘Write The Future’, the brave and clever Danish kit design at the Qatar World Cup, and the earned media-bating ‘Bring Home The Bud’ have all impressed.

All of which begs the question: why, for the 2023 Women’s World Cup domestically, have I not discovered much in the way of quality work?

Medibank’s ACL United - a campaign to support injured female athletes across all codes is a worthy problem to raise awareness of – I’ve heard and seen so much about how ACL injuries are so prevalent in the women’s game. So it’s good to see a brand saying something, I just hope they’re doing something too.

Rexona’s female empowerment activity - ‘We are just warming up’ is a promising platform. It’s cool to have a mission to get more girls playing football, but I want more than lip service, I want them to legitimately help get them on the grass.

FIFA’s ‘Beyond Greatness’ platform - which hopes to unite and inspire people through the power of women’s football, is such an excellent vehicle for brands to unite and inspire… but instead, we find ourselves being a little below greatness.

Hopefully, the Matildas win the World Cup and we can take that momentum, our learnings and do better in 2027. I know I’ll try.


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