Why brands need to shift the narrative around women’s sport

As a number of latest brands bounce into women’s sport sponsorships from football to netball, is it time to shift the narrative from empowering ladies to specializing in the technical talent and excessive calibre performances of feminine athletes, just as we might with the males?

This was the question posed by the German nationwide group, whose viral World Cup campaign shot down the misconceptions about ladies in soccer in critical type.

In the video, created in collaboration with decade-long sponsor Commerzbank, the players problem the reality the viewer in all probability doesn’t know their names, regardless of the women’s group being two-time world champions and eight-time winners of the European Championship. As they point out, the staff have been gifted a tea set for his or her first European victory in 1989.

The squad additionally talk about the prejudice they have had to overcome, with trolls likening the women’s recreation to “watching amateurs in slow motion”. They end by rejecting the male stereotypes with the line ‘We don’t have balls, however we all know how to use them’.

Uwe Hellmann, Commerzbank’s head of brand name administration, says the time was right time to convey the independence of women’s football to the fore.

“In our view, it’s time to take a clear stance. We want to make a contribution so that the reservations about women’s football stop,” he explains.

“Commerzbank has been sponsoring the women’s football national team for 10 years and we consider it part of our social responsibility to contribute to recognising women’s achievements.”

When it comes to the dynamism, athleticism and entertainment offered on the pitch [women’s rugby is] an outstanding spectacle, so initially it’s about letting more individuals see and have interaction with what’s a unbelievable sport.

Jonathan Castleman, HSBC

Ladies’s Sport Trust board director, Laura Weston, acknowledges that shifting the narrative away from empowerment to displaying the technical prowess of feminine athletes is a vital problem for brands.

The tactical aspect of the recreation is one thing that Weston has mentioned with the BBC in relation to its protection of the forthcoming Netball World Cup (12 to 21 July), as she believes it’s crucial for brands and broadcasters to exhibit that ladies take sport as significantly as men.

“There are hundreds of thousands women and girls playing netball around the country. We’re not only watching netball for entertainment, we’re watching it to understand how to get better,” says Weston.

“There’s an interesting element of getting more technical and actually explaining why these women are so good at what they’re doing, how you can get better at it yourself and not being afraid to be too technical.”

The New Zealand women’s group at the Ladies’s Sevens Collection. Credit score: Andrew Lau.

In soccer, particularly, brands appear wedded to the empowerment narrative, fairly than specializing in the feminine gamers’ technical means. Owen Laverty, director of fan intelligence at sports company Ear to the Ground, recollects making an attempt to create a mood board showcasing the athleticism of women’s sport and struggling to find the right type of photographs in football. As an alternative the workforce had to pull photographs from tennis, athletics, swimming and basketball.

Laverty factors out that as professionalism spreads throughout the women’s recreation the players are in a position to dedicate extra time to intense coaching, which means the ladies competing in the World Cup are phenomenal athletes and subsequently ought to be celebrated for their dedication to their craft.

He argues that if brands “change the lens” to concentrate on the players’ technical capability then the conversations shifts from ‘we’re nice for supplying you with a platform’ to ‘let’s present that you simply’re unimaginable’.

Showcasing the technical potential of feminine athletes and their deep understanding of their sport goes a great distance in the direction of getting extra ladies on display commentating on both men’s and women’s matches at the highest degree.

Former Arsenal defender and England captain Alex Scott is a outstanding current example of an ex-professional female player commentating on men’s and women’s soccer matches for the BBC and Sky. She spoke publicly earlier this yr about the sexist abuse she receives from soccer fans on social media, regardless of having 140 caps for her country and profitable countless trophies.

The Football Association (FA) is eager to champion extra ladies turning into broadcasters as this sends out an essential message that soccer is one recreation, says Kelly Simmons, FA director of the women’s skilled recreation.

“A good commentator is a good commentator – male or female – and they should be able to commentate across men’s and women’s football. It’s football,” Simmons argues.

“You look at Alex Scott who talked quite recently about the abuse she’s had to put up with on social media because she’s female, yet she’s won countless titles, she’s won the Champion’s League, she has 140 caps for her country. She has got to the very top of her profession and been really successful, so why not? Why can’t she commentate on the men’s game just because they’re men?”

Appreciating the skillset

Brands can play an essential position in serving to fans recognize the talent with which the ladies play, agrees Jonathan Castleman, international head of brand name partnerships at HSBC. He cites World Rugby knowledge which exhibits that ladies enjoying Rugby Sevens match the males on each metric aside from conversions.

“Everywhere else as a spectacle and skillset the men’s and women’s game are operating at the same level,” Castleman states.

“In terms of the dynamism, athleticism and entertainment provided on the pitch it’s a phenomenal spectacle, so first and foremost it’s about letting more people see and engage with what is a fantastic sport.”

The numbers are additionally there to recommend that feminine interest in the sport is rising. There has been a 28% improve since 2017 in registered female rugby gamers, equating to 2.7 million ladies. Furthermore, 40% of the 400 million fanbase for rugby worldwide are feminine, making ladies basically necessary to the future progress of the recreation.

Men’s football is the hottest sport in the world and the capacity to integrate the women’s recreation into that can be actually highly effective to develop it, market it and to give it an equal footing.

Tom Corbett, Barclays

When HSBC was renewing its Sevens World Collection title partnership in 2014, the inclusion of the women’s recreation was elementary to the bank signing the deal. The corporate has since labored with World Rugby to be sure that six of the eight games the women’s sevens play from 2019 to 2023 will run concurrently with the men to heighten the spectacle and facilitate the recreation’s progress.

The feminine gamers are additionally at the heart of HSBC’s content material technique. One among the financial institution’s most profitable pieces of content over the previous yr was an interview with Canadian captain and record-breaking points scorer Ghislaine Landry, who in the video talks about wanting to be often known as a great rugby participant, not a very good feminine rugby player.

HSBC RugbyCanadian captain Ghislaine Landry. Credit score: Andrew Lau.

“That’s what comes across to us across all the sports [we sponsor], particularly in rugby. [These women] are athletes who want to be respected for being brilliant rugby players and that is their motivation,” says Castleman.

This view is shared by World Rugby’s basic manager for women’s rugby, Katie Sadlier, who is two years into an eight-year plan designed to accelerate the improvement of the women’s recreation.

Sadlier recognises that considered one of World Rugby’s key roles is to raise the profile of girls in the sport by investing more in content material by way of the new #WomenInRugby website devoted to the feminine recreation.

“When people ask me what we are trying to achieve long term, it’s about normalising women’s involvement in rugby on and off the field, so you look at it and think it’s men and women, girls and boys. It’s not a male sport that has a little bit of women tagged on,” Sadlier explains.

The new website is the house of World Rugby’s ‘Try and Stop Us’ marketing campaign. Launched in Might, the campaign profiles 15 ‘unstoppable’ female rugby gamers from around the world who’ve broken limitations and pushed the recreation forward. Not only is the marketing campaign raising the profiles of the individual athletes, but the concept is to drive participation and change perceptions of rugby as simply a men’s recreation.

Why brands are tapping into the energy of other position fashions in women’s sport

The facility of male allies

Additionally it is value brands eager about how they will harness the energy of male allies of their chosen sport.

In the press convention celebrating his staff’s domestic treble profitable 2018/19 season, supervisor Pep Guardiola corrected journalists by saying that Manchester Metropolis’s males’s workforce was not the first English staff to obtain this honour, as Arsenal Women had finished so over a decade earlier.

“I think it’s wonderful to challenge that casual sexism that goes on,” says Simmons. “Women are sort of airbrushed out, so I thought it was fantastic that Pep said that and players tweeting about the women’s clubs and coming to the games – all that helps give women’s football credibility in the eyes of existing men’s football club fans.”

That is notably essential as the FA analysis suggests a key future audience for the Ladies’s Tremendous League (WSL) is the 18 to 34 age bracket, with a barely male skew. Furthermore, fans are more and more coming over from the men’s clubs to comply with the women’s as part of a one membership philosophy. Because of this, Simmons believes gamers, managers and the men’s club normally promoting the women’s club will help take it to the male fanbase.

Commerzbank German women's teamThe German national staff poke enjoyable at the tea set they have been gifted for his or her first European victory.

This is an opinion shared by Barclays, which signed an eight-figure deal to develop into title sponsor of the WSL till 2022, a report investment in UK women’s sport. The bank aims to leverage its long-established relationship with the Premier League, and its big international fanbase, to increase the profile of the WSL.

“The men’s game is the most popular sport in the world and the ability to integrate the women’s game into that is really exciting and will be really powerful to grow it, promote it and to give it an equal footing as the professional men’s game,” says Tom Corbett, Barclays head of sponsorship.

When it comes to legitimising women’s soccer, having the backing of people who are seen as specialists and superstars in the men’s recreation is completely imperative, Laverty provides.

“At the end of the day there’s a long history of football being men’s-focused and it does mean there are huge names people love and respect in that space,” he explains. “With their credibility, having them talking about the women’s game will have a massive impact.”

From a model perspective, Nike has taken the lead, from hosting package launches showcasing each the male and female captains from every club, to the ‘Dream Further’ Ladies’s World Cup campaign, which exhibits Brazilian celebrity Neymar enjoying a feminine version of the FIFA 2019 pc recreation and Alex Scott managing the men’s Barcelona aspect.

Whereas empowerment is great, the more brands can do to showcase and recognize the athleticism, method, power and pace of feminine sportswomen the additional they will go to breaking down the obstacles to equality.