How brands must move the goalposts for women’s sports

BBD Perfect Storm’s Daisy Proctor says that brands must invest in the meaningful moments created by women’s sport

Daisy Proctor

Managing Director BBD Perfect Storm


It may last a month but the Women’s World Cup exists way beyond the tournament. It’s a vehicle for progression and opportunity for women across the board. This year was no different with viewing figures reaching new heights with numbers on BBC being higher than the men’s Wimbledon final, and new teams appearing on the pitch for the first time -  signalling a new frontier for the game. For many brands, it was a moment to kick off support and reinforce a positive narrative that focuses on a more purpose-led approach and creating a level playing field. 

An offside strategy  

Nike’s initial decision to not sell Mary Earps’ goalkeeper jersey alongside her teammates set off a wave of public upset. Petitions and involvement from the former sports minister Tracey Crouch urged the sports brand to sell limited England, US, France and Netherlands shirts in response.

However, Nike’s U-turn decision on selling Mary Earps’ goalkeeper shirt is a true testament to how easy it is for brands to talk a good game without putting their money where their mouth is.

Brands need to position themselves as the 12th player, supporting the game and its future in all its entirety.

Daisy Proctor, Managing Director, BBD Perfect Storm

What players and fans want is for brands to be a part of the team. Brands need to position themselves as the 12th player, supporting the game and its future in all its entirety. Nike's oversight in underestimating the thankless, yet so critical, role of the goalkeeper was more than a costly fumble in the world of sports marketing. After all, they make the no. 1 jersey for the men. By dismissing the importance and role of the world’s top goalkeeper it perpetuated the notion that women’s sport is secondary to men’s football. On top of that, Nike earnt itself a red card when it then failed to offer a sincere apology. They purely reacted to the public outcry, rather than taking stock and holding themselves to account. It’s a valuable lesson to Nike and other brands to not simply follow the rule book but understand the values central to the sport. And that this is about equality. 

Creating a level playing field 

To truly create a level playing field, marketers must become pioneers of equality, pushing for positive change. It’s about understanding that the women’s game is its own entity, existing separately from the men’s game. Budweiser’s World Cup advert for the Lionesses perfectly encapsulates the beauty of the women’s game, as it celebrates the history of British football throughout the years, taking historical moments and transforming them into something magical.

We cannot set new standards if we fail to understand what drives fans. Women’s football is just as impactful as men’s - and it deserves a place on the podium, sharing the limelight with men’s sport. A recent study revealed that Women’s World Cup adverts were proven to be more successful than the men’s, highlighting that people of all genders and backgrounds resonate with women’s tournaments just as much. Although Nike got it wrong this time round, they have got it right before with the launch of its first-ever women’s football boot, last month. It challenged the way brands approach women’s design and moved the conversation along in a positive direction - but is that enough?

We cannot set new standards if we fail to understand what drives fans.

Daisy Proctor, Managing Director, BBD Perfect Storm

To avoid future penalties, brands must reframe their focus and tap into the heart of the game - spirit, fairness and sportsmanship, key factors that pull people in from around the world.

Recognising that the tournament goes beyond your brand, touching the hearts of many across the globe will help secure your brand’s equity and establish a culture of inclusivity.

Brands that are self selecting the heroes of the game are putting the wrong foot forward. 

Striking the next goal 

And while we wait for the next tournament in four years time, brands have the opportunity to take learnings and fine-tune their marketing approach for the next Women’s World Cup. Learning from the mistakes made, understanding that football is for everyone and seeing the true value in every player is what is important. Brands must reassess how they can become front runners in this space, by setting a new standard - one that nurtures and inspires generations to come. Take, for example, the support for Morocco’s Nouhaïla Benzina – FIFA's first ever hijab-wearing player. Brands getting behind and publicly appreciating her, especially at a time when countries like France have banned female footballers from wearing the Hijab, helps usher in a culture of inclusivity.

These are the moments that fans are craving, and what all brands should look to achieve - moments that go beyond the four years and stadium walls. It’s almost too easy to fall into the trap of jumping on a bandwagon because sometimes brands will get it wrong. What matters most is how brands bounce back and navigate the field moving forward. Investing where it matters most, creating meaningful campaigns and unforgettable memories that stick is how brands can become the most valued players.

Guest Author

Daisy Proctor

Managing Director BBD Perfect Storm


Daisy Proctor is Managing Director at BBD Perfect Storm

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