Mary Queen of Stops and moments that matter

Nike neglected an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to real talent

Grant Hunter

Global Executive Creative Director Iris Worldwide


Mary Earps was without a doubt our player of the tournament, deservedly winning the golden glove. There’s a whole generation for whom Mary has revolutionised what it means to be the goalkeeper. She has become their hero - someone who has helped to transform the goalkeeper position into an ambition and desire for young girls across the country.

So why is it that her adoring fans across the country are not able to buy their own Earps strip? It’s been a long standing tradition, one almost as old as the sports itself, to buy the shirt of your footballing hero. Perhaps a misjudgment or simply an own goal by Nike - call it what you want but one thing’s for sure, the irony of the golden glove being awarded by rivals Adidas is not lost on me.

Mary justifiably called Nike out before the tournament and as England progressed through to the final stages of the tournament, Nike showed no sign of budging until the eleventh hour.

England’s second place finish certainly did not dampened enthusiasm for Mary Earp’s shirt either with Tracy Crouch MP submitting a parliamentary motion to force Nike hand - a staggering 151, 000 (at time of writing) person strong petition which is still racking up signatures and it’s no surprise following Google Trends reporting demand for her shirt rose 257% in a week.

Nike neglected an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to a real talent who has inspired not just a generation but an entire nation.

Grant Hunter, Global Executive Creative Director, Iris

Despite Nike’s last minute effort to keep hold of its reputation and release a ‘limited qualities of replica shirts’ the matter at hand is wider reaching. Nike neglected an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to a real talent who has inspired not just a generation but an entire nation. I'm surprised they haven't rectified this quicker - where's the golden Queen of Stops keeper kit with proceeds going to develop next gen keeping talent? 

Lionesses, doing it for themselves 

Memorable Lioness moments have led to several commercial contracts in the past. Remember that ‘Russo Heel’ at the Euros; it should be held in the same regard as the Cruyff Turn or Higuita’s Scorpion Kick. The reward for Alessia Russo, aside from national adoration, was striking up deals that are reported to be worth a million or more from brands such as Oakley, Beats and Adidas. And I suspect a reason for Nike’s last minute change of mind was the growing threat of any one of its competitors lining up at Earps’ door to deliver her fans some kind of legitimate memorabilia.

Earps, herself, has not let this opportunity pass by, launching her own fashion line under the MAE27 moniker with t-shirts emblazoned with “be unapologetically you”. After her passionate response to the penalty save, people will be queuing for miles to buy a shirt branded with the two immortal words - f*** off -  uttered by Earps. That said, its disappointing that so far no brand has shown willingness to stand with Earps. And commercially it simply doesn’t make sense. 

A change is afoot 

Any of the contracts earnt by the women’s team still pale in comparison to the deals their male England counterparts command. Look at Grealish who reportedly gets £10 million for sporting Gucci. After the Euros brands did clammer around the Lionesses, this will only continue after the success on the world stage.

But even when things don’t go to plan, as in Lauren James’ case, it’s a real positive to see a brand back their player rather than burying their head in the sand. Sure’s topical response focused on the bright future that Lauren James has ahead of her rather than dwell on a split second moment of frustration. A shining example of how brands can best engage with sporting stars and these key events; demonstrating agility to the action happening on the pitch.

There is obviously still heaps of work to be done. There is a massive disconnect with levels of remuneration when comparing the women’s and male games at both international and national level. The players paused negotiations with the FA but after the journey they have been on, they have inarguable leverage when these conversations get going again. Weigman gets paid £400k to Southgate’s £5 million. FIFA boosted the women's prize fund to £88 million but the men's fund in Qatar was £346 million. Short term contracts are still the norm in WSL and many players don't have boot deals. These chasms are not, unfortunately, going to change overnight. However, key stakeholders - brands and government bodies - have an opportunity to play an instrumental role in forcing change.

Momentum is at a critical point; attendance and viewership has never been higher. The Lionesses are deservedly becoming household names and 100,000 more girls are now playing football in the UK thanks to the efforts on the pitch by these powerful role models. Brands should see huge potential and support the grassroots development of next gen female talent. And then, just maybe, we’ll reach parity on pay sooner rather than later.

Guest Author

Grant Hunter

Global Executive Creative Director Iris Worldwide


Grant is the Global ECD of iris based in London. During his time at iris he has led award-winning work for Samsung, adidas, COP26 and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. He is the co-author of Newsjacking published by Thames and Hudson. He also sits on the Straight8 advisory board, he’s a long-time collaborator of the industry collective The Purpose Disruptors and is currently exploring the art of being a beekeeper.

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