Watching the final few minutes of the Women’s FIFA World Cup was an exciting time for both the game of soccer and for female athletes. With the FIFA scandal still in our memory banks, U.S. soccer fans needed the win that the women’s team provided. In fact the whole women’s tournament was a welcome event for all soccer fans, distracting us from the likes of Sepp Blatter.
The added benefit for U.S. fans and for the female soccer athletes is that the sport will push forward the recognition and momentum it deserves, including getting on par with both salary and endorsement value for the athletes and the sport. While it is well documented that female athletes earn less than their male counterparts in earnings and endorsements, the female athletes who play soccer also earn considerably less than other female athletes in such sports as tennis and golf.
The U.S. Women’s Team can capitalize on their World Cup win and market themselves as the new sports role models for endorsement deals. Think of the U.S. Women’s Team as the antithesis of the Blatter regime. Remember, it was Blatter who back in 2004 felt that women soccer players should “play in more feminine clothes…they could, for example, have tighter shorts.” Well, I think the players proved that they are more than sex objects on the soccer field, they played like girls, and the soccer fans loved it.
Sports Illustrated recognized the momentum behind the team and created 25 distinct covers for a current issue, one for each player plus Coach Ellis, and one team photo. Endorsement value will increase for a few of the key star personas, and this is a key period for anyone on the team to pursue endorsements as they ride the championship wave and cruise into the Olympics next year.
Carli Lloyd will be one to watch. Already in endorsement deals with Visa and Nike, with her hat trick during the final game and a strong social media presence (she received the most tweets amongst players, 121,000 on Sunday night alone), companies may find her to be the next face for their brand. She would carry a positive in any of the four factors we like to use in determining endorsement levels (Celebrity, Endorsement, Use and Connection). For instance, if a sports, physical fitness, or healthy food company was to be calling: Lloyd is now internationally famous with a celebrity status; the product can easily be seen as part of her lifestyle; the campaign would be national or international; and she would be considered to have believable experience with the product category. Lloyd would score a perfect 10 for celebrity athlete endorsement value.
When determining this type of right of publicity endorsement value, reputation and lack of negative publicity is another key factor. Lloyd needs to make sure to keep a squeaky clean reputation, and not attain the negative publicity, such as recently gained by goalkeeper Hope Solo, who may not see any of the endorsement opportunities her teammates may seize.
While the National Women’s Soccer League is still in its infancy, U.S. soccer fans will most likely start paying more attention to the sport and its athletes after the FIFA World Cup win. The amount of publicity garnered for the U.S. Team will equate to more fans for the sport, and more consumers for industry related products. And with over 3 million kids playing with just US Youth Soccer, and about half of them girls, that’s a lot of future fans and consumers. Let’s just say, the fan base loves that the soccer athletes play like girls.