Sponsors look to cash in on ‘beautiful side’ of women’s World Cup
The German women’s football team has grown in the eyes of many into a recognizable, and, importantly, highly marketable entity. In the run up to the Women’s World Cup, sponsors have been lining up to take a slice.
“The Beautiful side of 20Eleven” – that’s the official motto of this year’s Women’s World Cup. Perhaps it’s a fitting slogan for the showpiece tournament of the women’s version of the beautiful game, and it’s certainly a catch cry that fans and advertisers alike have been buying into.
“We’ve been working on the World Cup for more than three years and now we’re realizing how high commercial demand is,” German national women’s team manager Doris Fitschen said.
Such is the new-found appeal of women’s football, Fitschen says she has been able to put together an entire pool of sponsors for the upcoming event – for the first time in the history of German women’s football.
“We have five premium partners and one main partner, all from different sectors,” she said.
The new main partner is the Allianz insurance group, which has committed to a working relationship until the end of 2014, far beyond this year’s tournament in Germany. Sponsorship consultants like Hartmut Zastrow think this is a smart move by the insurer.
“The women’s national team playing at home in a world cup is an unbelievably good advertising opportunity, which is currently in high demand,” Zastrow said, adding that he expected media attention to peak during the tournament in June and July.
And key to the efficacy of any advertising deal is exclusivity: Only one company from any sector can sponsor the national team.
Interesting for many lines of business
The German team’s World Cup matches are expected to reach a televised audience of 8-12 million viewers, according to Zastrow. It’s a realistic estimate given that around 11 million people tuned in to see Germany beat Brazil 2-0 in the last Women’s World Cup final in China in 2007.
“The women’s team draws many families and women into the stadium when they play. This is interesting for all manufacturers of mass-produced goods,” Zastrow said, adding that the advertising impact depends on whether the footballers can plausibly represent a particular product.
“Traditional women’s products would certainly be amongst them, but also cars and bank products – things that the players use in their everyday lives.”
Obviously the sponsors want to use the German women’s squad to reach as many consumers as possible, but their exact goals vary depending on the industry they’re in, according to team manager Fitschen.
“Some just want to get closer to their target audience,” she said. “Others want to take advantage of the euphoria and momentum of the World Cup tournament, while others engage in grass roots work and action on the ground, like girls’ football tournaments, for example.”
Earlier this year the German Football Association (DFB) brought members of the women’s national team together in Dusseldorf for two days of marketing activities, including advertising film and photo shoots. Team manager Fitschen said the players succeeded in cultivating a healthy image in their commercials.
“First, we are of course successful. And the players are young, modern, attractive, sporty women,” she said.
Marketing expert Zastrow pointed out, however, that individual players in the women’s national team are still nowhere near as recognizable as their male counterparts. He adds, though, that the women can bring something new to the table for football in Germany.
“The so-called group credentials of the team as a whole – with its coach Silvia Neid, who is incredibly popular – are interesting,” he said.
This year’s World Cup also gives Germany’s female footballers an opportunity to shake off an old stereotype. For years the women’s team has had a reputation for being “butch.” According to a survey by Cologne-based sports scientist Daniela Schaaf, this cliché still persists in the minds of many sports journalists.
Some national players are in same-sex relationships – some openly, like the goalkeeper Nadine Angere, and others not so openly. But this doesn’t make a difference to the DFB, according to their manager.
“There is no code of conduct regarding the sexual orientation of players. No one is banned from coming out. I am convinced that there would be no disadvantages for a player,” Fitschen said.
Women’s football is, in this sense, much more modern than its male counterpart, which is considered by many critics as a sporting bastion of homophobia.
Zastrow says the lesbian cliché isn’t much of an impediment to advertisers and sponsors anymore because German society has become more open. Furthermore, the women’s national team doesn’t present itself in a sexual context.
“The masculine players have their fans, but there are also feminine stars,” he said. “That’s not a handicap. Sexual preferences are less important nowadays.”
Wheeling and dealing
As are performances both on and off the field, Zastrow added. Lucrative advertising contracts will certainly await players who make a positive impression at this year’s World Cup, but outstanding success on the pitch isn’t a prerequisite for players who are media savvy, he said.
Manager Doris Fitschen assesses the marketability of today’s national players almost wistfully: “Compared to my time as a player there are a lot more opportunities.”
When Fitschen played, it was considered a huge success for a women’s team to get an equipment contract with one of the big sports goods manufacturers. Today, individual players are popular marketing partners: midfielder Fatmire Bajramaj advertises cosmetics; her teammate striker Simone Laudehr promotes sports ointment.
“Right now, in the World Cup year, some players have personal sponsorship contracts. This enables them to earn money, which they can live off quite comfortably for now,” said Fitschen.
She added that she hoped this would continue after the World Cup: “It is our goal that the Women’s Bundesliga and women’s football in general gets a boost and is raised to another level.”
Author: Jens Krepela / nd
Editor: Sam Edmonds