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Football: With new TV deal, brands see value in women's league deals

Football: With new TV deal, brands see value in women's league deals

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Women's Super League - Manchester City v Chelsea - Manchester City Academy Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 21, 2021 Chelsea's Ann-Katrin Berger in action Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo

MANCHESTER, England: England's Women's Super League (WSL) kicks off its new season this weekend and, with a major new broadcast deal and a host of international players, there are a series of new sponsorships as brands look to get in on the growth of the women's game.

The new three-year broadcast deal, reported to be worth eight million pounds (US$11.07 million) per season, will see WSL games broadcast live on subscription platform Sky Sports and by the free-to-air BBC, which the league hopes will boost ratings and the popularity of the WSL, whose title sponsor is Barclays.

Sky Sports say they will give the WSL "the full treatment" with their trademark analysis, promotion and programming around the games, while the BBC offer the chance to access the large audience of fans without sports subscription packages.

In the past WSL teams were usually 'add ons' to the main sponsorship deals for men's teams but in recent weeks WSL clubs have announced a raft of commercial deals tailored to the women's teams.

The same trend has been seen in the divisions below the WSL though, indicating that the growing commercial appeal of women's football is broader than just the top level.

"There is no question that we have seen an uplift in commercial interest in women’s football - in our leagues and competitions, at club level and across the women’s game in general," Kelly Simmons, the Football Association's (FA) Director of the Women's Professional Game, told Reuters.

"Brands are increasingly seeing women’s sport, and the associated audiences, as an opportunity and platform to help deliver against business objectives," she added.

NEW PARTNERS

WSL teams are not just selling their own shirt sponsorships but have sleeve deals and a range of partners for specific sectors.

This week Herbalife became the official 'nutrition partner' of Tottenham Hotspur's team and Everton announced a partnership with the Football Manager video game.

Chris Cook, co-founder of football marketing company Future Sports Marketing (FSM), says the television deal was central to the new interest.

“Viewing figures are estimated to explode by around 300per cent and consequently we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of brands who are keen to explore commercial opportunities in the women’s game," he said.

Cook noted that in the past companies may have viewed women's soccer as a worthy cause to support but they now view it as a business opportunity.

"Many of these brands might have previously viewed investing in women’s football as a CSR (corporate social responsibility)initiative but the TV broadcast deal has caused a major shift and they're now seeing it as a mainstream sport in its own right with audiences to match," he said.

FSM helped broker deals between Restaurant chain Fridays, previously known as TGI Fridays, and five clubs at varying levels - Everton, Birmingham City, Southampton, Glasgow Rangers and Hashtag United.

Friday's Chief Marketing Officer Dan Staples said the company felt that women's football allowed them to reach a specific target audience.

"Following a review of several strategic approaches to identify greatest exposure and opportunity, we decided on women’s football due to a recognisable growth trajectory... it felt like the perfect time" he said.

FINANCIAL ATTRACTION

While the reach to a female demographic is an obvious appeal, women's clubs have other attractions to brands.

"If you look at the crowds at women’s football games you also see a lot of families and an opportunity for brands to appeal to them," said Beth Clarkson, women’s football governance expert at the University of Portsmouth.

"It is also financially attractive - brands can become a title sponsor of a domestic competition at a fraction of the cost of becoming a named partner of a professional men’s club where their logo could become lost among many others," she added.

While the television audience should receive a boost, the WSL still faces a challenge in increasing matchday revenue from ticket sales, hospitality and merchandising.

"Spectatorship has certainly not risen at the same pace as sponsorship and broadcasting, there is no escaping that. Matchday revenue is not the biggest income stream in women’s football," said Clarkson, who believes the WSL could experiment more with holding double-header matches with men's teams.

In the meantime, the companies getting involved with the women's game believe they can secure much more than a name on a shirt.

"Through delivering everything from TV facing assets, digital activation, match experiences, memorabilia and unrivalled player access, we can bring that emotion associated with our brand to traditional and new audiences whilst significantly tying in our values of equality, diversity & inclusion," said Friday's Staples.

 

Source: Reuters

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