This year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, held jointly in Australia and New Zealand Aotearoa, promises to be the biggest and most culturally significant ever. Women’s football (or soccer, if you really must) has never been more popular around the world.
The 32 nations competing are replete with stars — from Australia and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr to the United States and OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe and Spain and Barcelona Femení’s Alexia Putellas. But just 10 brands have been signed as partners for the TV coverage across the Seven Network and Optus Sport.
What we’ve achieved in revenue was significantly higher than both of us expected when we were putting together our businesses cases,”
Clive Dickens, VP – TV, audio, content and product development at Optus Sport.
B&T asked Dickens how much a “significant” amount constituted at the reveal of the Optus Sport Studio in Sydney’s Macquarie Park (see lead image).
“You’re talking about 20-30 per cent more than we anticipated, and that’s before we include some of the short market opportunities that become available across both of our networks as well,” said Dickens.
“What we’ve taken to market was quite unique in the sense that it is a genuinely converged, national, cross-platform proposition,” said Rob MacLean, national sport sales director at Seven West Media.
“What we said [to the partners and sponsors] was that it is 10 brands only, effectively category-exclusive, and they are following the audience wherever it travels. So, wherever fans are consuming this content across Seven and 7plus, these brands will bere connecting with that audience.”
That audience will be large — Optus expects some 20 million Australians will watch at least five minutes of gameplay over the course of the tournament — but fragmented.
Games will be shown on Seven, 7plus and Optus Sport and clips, highlights and other moments of interest will be shown across both platforms’ social media sites. Optus Sport, for example, is creating original content for its TikTok, Snap and YouTube channels.
Having a somewhat divided audience almost seems inevitable from the outset.
“What we wanted to do, first of all, was a very competitive free-to-air tender. We ran the tender process — very, very independent — and four of the five free-to-air broadcasters bid in the first round,” said Dickens.
“It was so close in terms of the deal money and what they were willing to invest, we went to a second round and then Seven were the frontrunner in that second round.”
But Dickens said that the feedback the pair of broadcasters received from brands and agencies was that they wanted to simplify the way they invested and not have to negotiate channel conflict.
“We created a joint sales policy that simplified the way that brands, decision makers and agencies can make recommendations to their clients, rather than spending their time negotiating whether they should take a package on Optus Sport or Seven or both,” added Dickens.
The Seven Network will have 15 games available for free, including all the Matildas’ games, across Channel Seven and 7plus. All 64 games at the World Cup, including the 15 shown on Channel Seven, will be available to watch on Optus Sport.
For most Aussie football fans, having the Matildas’ games on free-to-air should be enough to sate their soccer appetites. But, for the more hardcore fans, it might leave something wanting.
MacLean said that brands will receive fantastic results regardless of the fragmentation as football offers a more compelling product for brands than any other sport.
“Football is quite unique in terms of how you can package it up from a commercial point of view. No ads in play and more refined in terms of the commercial opportunities around that. We’ve seen that when the sponsorship environment has less clutter, or it’s cleaner, that can lead to 50-52 per cent greater brand recall,” he explained.
“This was why, for the first time ever, we went with a model which was effectively only partners and sponsors. There was no spot buying at all on the table. There were these 10 slots and they would travel across Metro broadcast, regional broadcast, 7plus and then Optus Sport as well.”
Perhaps that also explains the relative paucity of brand campaigns centred around the World Cup. To be sure, we have seen campaigns from Coca-Cola (bit shit), Visa (bit better plus a load of community action) and Adidas (better still), but hardly a peep out of the other big sponsors.
“The driving factor [for the partners joining] was absolutely around inspiration,” said Dickens.
“You can see that through the creative that each of the sponsors and partners have already unveiled.”
Of course, they could just be saving the campaigns for the big kick-off on Thursday. But compared to the men’s World Cup, which saw big budget campaigns featuring huge stars ranging from former footballers Clarence Seedorf and David Beckham, to UFC fighter Khabib and actor Jason Sudekis, the Women’s World Cup has been slightly more muted.
There is, however, a change in the tone of the campaigns compared to the Men’s World Cup.
“A core theme throughout was that many of [the sponsors] wanted to convey and build on their association with women’s sport. We’ve seen a real evolution in the positive trajectory of women’s sport in this country. For Seven as a business, our promotion and coverage of women’s sport is incredibly strong and growing,” said MacLean.
“In terms of the involvement of the brands in this sport, it is very much to communicate their role and contribution as they build towards a more positive future… [Seven] helped them find really innovative and tactical ways to help promote their activations and initiatives, whether that’s what they’re doing with FIFA at live sites and/or through their creatives. It can be more challenging with a football broadcast but we’ve been able to work with FIFA to unlock some new elements that haven’t been used before in a Women’s World Cup, like the humble squeeze back.”
New Zealand will host Norway in the tournament’s curtain-raiser on Thursday at 5pm. The Matildas will play the Republic of Ireland three hours later in their first game, at the Accor Stadium in Sydney’s Olympic Park. The final will be played on 20 August at 8pm.