Marketers finally see the power of women’s sport

The recent Black Ferns Rugby World Cup (RWC) Final win was not only a watershed moment for women’s rugby but women’s sport sponsorship as marketers across the country finally got to understand the power and commercial opportunity around women’s sport in Aotearoa.

Up until November 2022 it felt like few brands understood the value around women’s sport.

ANZ has been a long-time supporter of netball, women’s cricket and female Olympians and ASB has been there with tennis and rugby. However, there have only been a few newcomers to get onboard as meaningful partners over the past year, with women’s sport sponsorship still falling flat with most marketers.

RWC 2021 (played in 2022) was hardly flooded with interest, with existing local rugby partners ASB coming to the party with an extended package around the tournament. Kiwibank did well to pick up Black Fern’s leader, Sarah Hirini as a ‘Kiwibank Impact Champion’ in the lead up, but it didn’t even appear to be on the radar of some brands or categories like FMCG’s or supermarket’s even though they would have been well aligned partners.

In fact, some brands like Weetbix completely missed the boat even though it was staring them right in the eyes as they launched their ‘Stat Attack’ on-pack rugby promotion which included a number of current and former players, but not one single female rugby player.

That was before though, and the Black Ferns’ win has changed everything when it comes to marketer’s relationship with women’s sport. Many marketers got to witness the power of women’s sport firsthand, and:

Understand the ability for sportswomen and women’s sport to capture the hearts of a nation and exert itself into conversation and culture; Feel it’s unique brand attributes including its inclusiveness, its authentic and humble personalities and collective spirit; See its quality play and unique and desirable style; Believe in it’s potential to draw huge audiences and sell out stadiums (when given proper support).

Rebecca Sowden.

Credit has to be given to Spark Sport and Three for forming a partnership that took RWC 2021 to the masses with wide-reaching free-to-air broadcast. It raised the visibility and with it the commercial potential of all women’s sport, ultimately making it a more ‘viable’ option for marketers. The record-breaking 1.3million audience wouldn’t have happened without Three’s coverage and props to them for seeing this potential – long may they be rewarded for their foresight.

Thankfully, the commercial opportunity around women’s sport has now been fully exposed and no doubt has created FOMO for a number of advertisers, but we will now have to wait and see which brands will seize the opportunity, and how.

There is only eight months until the biggest women’s sports event on the planet with over 1 billion viewers expected to tune in to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July. However, we’re yet to see any major sponsorship announcements or leverage campaigns within New Zealand around the team, individual players or the tournament itself despite all being surprisingly affordable.

If you thought RWC 2021 captivated Kiwis, just wait until global women’s sport stars and activists like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan hit our shores, international media descend on Aotearoa and Kiwis feel the world’s game in their hands. 

The opportunity is wide open for brands, but the winners will be the brands who get in now, cement themselves as supporters and build interest in partnership with these properties before the event. To ensure success, brands will also need to activate in the right way with an understanding of the nuances around women’s sport and an understanding of the role they can play in adding value to the ecosystem rather than as a sponsor jumping on the bandwagon. 

This article was originally published in the Dec/Jan 2022/23 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

About Rebecca Sowden

Rebecca Sowden is a former New Zealand Football Fern and Founder of women’s sport sponsorship and marketing consultancy, Team Heroine.

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