At just under 23 million viewers, the 2015 Women’s World Cup was the most-watched soccer event in U.S. history.
For a sport that has never held much traction in the United States, this level of viewership got me thinking, “Are marketers paying attention to this?” Interest in soccer usually piques during the World Cup (men’s and women’s), but this year’s win has the potential to carry America’s interest beyond the finals.
Women’s soccer has built momentum over the years, but in July 2015, visits to sites via keywords related to women’s soccer exceeded those in July 2014 by 20times. As the spectacular performance by the U.S. Women’s National Team in this year’s World Cup grabbed consumers’ attention, smart marketers capitalized on this swell.
Companies With Their Heads in the Game
In the electric excitement of the game, many brands jumped on the celebratory bandwagon as a promotional strategy.
Longtime supporter Nike debuted an inspiring “American Woman” commercial just before the tournament began. Although Nike didn’t officially sponsor FIFA, it still received more tweets than any other brand during the game — it was associated with the event 121% more than Adidas, according to Fortune.
But that isn’t to say adidas did poorly. The brand got solid consumer engagement by retweeting players’ tweets and using the hashtag #BeTheDifference. Adidas also hustled to produce a line of shoes inspired by the win.
Even brands in largely unrelated industries like Disneyland, Honey Maid, and the U.S. Navy shared their excitement via Twitter, and public figures from Bill Clinton to Justin Timberlake fired off tweets throughout the event.
What I’m stumped by is why some brands fumbled to get in on the action. Take Snapchat, for instance. The popular app scrambled to compile users’ World Cup videos into what’s known as a Snapchat story — yet it ran with no ad partner. Snapchat’s advertising strategy may be less than a year old, but we all knew the World Cup was coming.
Snapchat’s lack of preparation blew the brand’s chances to produce something resonant with viewers — and it must sting considering advertisers were paying $210,000 for a 30-second television spot.
Will the Glory Fade?
Our data shows that while the FIFA and USWNT websites saw massive spikes during the event, traffic numbers dropped right after the event ended.
While this implies that the World Cup provided just a small window of opportunity, the USWNT is now playing exhibition games, and attendance is high. They just played a game against Costa Rica that drew more than 44,000 fans — a new attendance record for a USWNT game.
And then there’s FIFA’s Live Your Goals Campaign, which has received more than 31,300 pledges. The campaign aims to increase the number of girls and women playing soccer worldwide from 30 to 45 million by the 2019 Women’s World Cup. These efforts have already doubled the number of teams playing in the Women’s Cup since its birth in 1991. Abby Wambach, as well as other players and coaches, are working hard with this campaign to spread soccer excitement. Judging by fan engagement, it seems to be working.
Get Your Brand on Board
Sporting events, especially international ones, unite people. They’re relatively short periods of time in which brands can connect with — and tap into — Americans’ collective cheer.
The 2016 Women’s Olympic Football tournament is slated for Rio de Janeiro: If your brand was in the same boat as Snapchat during this year’s event, then start strategizing now.
In addition to World Cup marketing, check out brands’ strategies for other international sporting events. The Olympics are a great advertising showdown, and Procter & Gamble had a big hit with its “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign. The brand even pre-filmed competing athletes to prepare for any outcome. Reebok has basically staked its brand on an association with CrossFit, while X Games has attracted sponsors like GoPro and Monster.
Brands like Nike, Adidas, and P&G have latched onto these events, and they’re paying major bucks to market them. As interest grows and expands, it’s becoming increasingly apparent these brands’ leaders have made smart investments.
When our country’s women’s soccer team is making goals left and right, it’s an opportunity for marketers to do the same. Don’t miss out.