Sports media publishers have found advertiser interest to be significantly greater – within the U.S. – for this summer’s Women’s World Cup (WWC) than it was for the men’s tournament last summer. B/R Football told Digiday that ad revenues were up +10% tournament over tournament, while the soccer-centric platform 90Min has experienced an even larger increase (+20%) over its Russia 2018 totals. The absence of the U.S. national team certainly tempered advertiser interest last year, but it’s been the rising popularity of the USWNT amongst sports fans and a social landscape emphasizing equality that have driven increased brand participation this time around (see: pressure exists on both brands and publishers to activate as they would for a World Cup).
Howie Long-Short: B/R Football was first introduced in July ’18 – post completion of the World Cup – so it’s unclear how much of Bleacher Report’s tournament over tournament revenue increase should be attributed to the 12 months of runway that they had with an established soccer brand ahead of the WWC. According to comScore (April ‘19), 90Min is the top soccer specific site in the United States with 3.85 million views/month, which explains why we opted to focus on their efforts.
It’s surprising that publishers have booked more in ad revenues for the WWC considering that the men’s tournament generates significantly more traffic and engagement, but the combination of big brands (think: Beats by Dre, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Powerade) cutting back on their domestic spend once the USMNT failed to qualify in ’18 and their lack of credibility with fans of the women’s game (thus requiring partnerships with media outlets who play in the space year-round) explain the phenomenon. Brands also value the opportunity to compete for a “share of voice” amongst soccer fans and the WWC offers a point of entry with significantly less competition.
As mentioned, a strong bond has been developed between the U.S. sports fan and the USWNT since the team won the World Cup 20 years ago – which is ultimately why there’s a desire to activate during the tournament. Everyone likes a winner and Minute Media’s (owns 90Min) Global Head of Football Andres Cárdenas explained that “like Brazil on the men’s side, the U.S. women are always the favorite going in [to the tournament]. That’s appealing to brands. They want to associate themselves with that kind of success.”
To be clear, 90Min received “heavy investment from U.S. brands” last summer – their spends were simply focused on international markets. Much of the advertising done domestically was targeted at the Spanish speaking consumer (the publication runs in both languages). The demographics’ soccer-first mentality guaranteed their interest despite the USMNT missing the tournament.
There’s no reason to believe that the USWNT will fall off from a performance standpoint, so it’s safe to assume brands will continue to invest in the sport. Cárdenas said he would “expect advertising revenues to be +200% greater [than they were this year] in 2023” (the next WWC).
Fan Marino: Cárdenas said that brands looking to capitalize on the WWC have focused on telling the stories of the individual athletes. While historically “coverage of the women’s game focused on inequality or the team as a collective and its on-field results, fans now want to know about the player’s lives; who they are as people.” Women’s teams are traditionally far more accessible than the men’s clubs making it possible to collaborate on the authentic content that fans can relate to – a goal for all advertisers. 90Min currently has several WWC participants writing stories, filming “home video” or managing social accounts for their various platforms.
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