Ripping up the rule book: how music can be a game changer for the FIFA Women’s World Cup

MassiveMusic’s Aifric Lennon says the women’s game has a unique opportunity to carve out its own sound

Aifric Lennon

Research Strategy Director MassiveMusic


Football and music are synonymous – for both fans and players. Sound has an incredible ability to capture the highs and lows that every avid fan endures throughout a season or trophy campaign, and we see this once again as the FIFA Women’s World Cup starts. Music will take on its position as the 12th woman on the pitch, as fans serenade their national players with enthusiasm and rousing motivational tracks boom out across stadiums.

However, as consumption of sport changes and the proliferation of content spreads even further across different social media platforms, so does the role of music – and this opens up exciting opportunities for brands.

A symbiotic connection

We’re no strangers to the power of music in sport, especially football. In fact, at MassiveMusic we were honoured to host an event on the topic and managed to bag Champions League winners Rebecca Smith and Clarence Seedorf to be on the panel, recalling how music played a part in their winning performances. Seedorf recalled how inspiring it was for him to hear fans cheering the teams’ anthem as he made his way through the tunnel.

It’s fair to say that the game of football has always had a strong influence over the music industry and music culture at large. Any tracks associated with or adopted by football events and teams are almost guaranteed a degree of chart success. We watch anthems for the Men’s World Cup become the songs of the summer. The airways in 2010, for example, were dominated by Akon’s Oh Africa and Shakira’s Waka Waka. And you don’t even need to like football to know most of the words to Three Lions (I think England fans are now at 57 years of hurt with the men’s team…). The men’s game has laid something of a blueprint for how music is best used by sporting bodies and associated brands to drive engagement with the game. A rule book the women’s game can either follow to the letter or rewrite for a new era.

The women’s game has its own unique story and legacy, and this must be celebrated – it needs its own sound, too.

Aifric Lennon, Research Strategy Director at MassiveMusic, a Songtradr company

An untapped opportunity in the women’s game

The women’s game, with a rapidly growing fanbase and ever-expanding exposure, is yet to have its sound solidified. But it’s getting so exciting – just look at the momentum last year when England won the Euro championships and the effect it had on the morale of the nation. ‘Sweet Caroline’ was loaned from the men’s tournament and the British nation sang together in celebration. But, the women’s game has its own unique story and legacy, and this must be celebrated – it needs its own sound, too.

We were thrilled to be asked to develop the sonic brand/anthem for the UEFA Women’s Champions League – especially with the rich history and love for the iconic men’s anthem. With the football broadcast space growing increasingly competitive as new platforms emerge on the scene, there was an additional need to stand out from the crowd musically, and avoid creating something predictable. It needed to incorporate an inclusive, easy-to-sing chant, feel classic yet modern and be a message of strength and courage. The result now sees both the crowd and players fired up by the rousing composition and is building brand equity and recognition year-on-year.

As the women’s game progresses, brands have an incredible opportunity to play a significant role in the architecture of how the sound of women’s football emerges. The Women’s Sports Trust found that over 24 million adults in the UK are now aware of sponsorship of women’s sport, football making a large contribution to this figure.

Investing in the sound of women's football as part of a brands’ ongoing commitment to the women’s game drives engagement, and should be considered as part of a brand’s strategy, whether through sport sponsorship activations or talent-led campaigns. Additionally, latching on to tentpole moments such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup gives brands an opportunity to leverage these moments of hyper attention to launch or experiment with their own sonic branding. We are increasingly seeing evidence that sonic identities can return results in really short periods of time, perfect for mass-audience sporting events, such as the World Cup. TikTok’s sonic logo as an example, achieved nearly 50% demographic attribution by Gen Z just months after launch (far above industry averages). The brands with the most recognisable sonic identities could even consider experimenting with creating a Women’s World Cup adaptation, using their ownable sound to celebrate the occasion while continuing to build sonic equity.

Sound for the digital age

The era in which the women’s game has gained mass popularity in this country is a very different time to that when the nation fell in love with the men’s game. For argument's sake, let's look at this being the World Cup-winning ‘66 year. Held one year before colour TV launched in the UK, content (which consisted almost entirely of match action whether live or repeats) was shared exclusively between the BBC and ITV. This, of course, impacted the way in which fans were able to engage with the game let alone brands, setting somewhat of a precedent.

The women’s game however is coming into prominence when football fans are engaging with it across a growing range of different screens and content providers. Increasingly social is becoming a primary source for fans to engage with sporting content, which now extends far beyond just the action on the pitch. And this year’s tournament being held in the southern hemisphere magnifies these factors. With live matches scheduled for the morning, social might be the only way some fans in Europe are able to catch any of the action. Such a sound-on environment gives brands more opportunity than ever to leverage sound to engage with women’s football fans and be truly innovative and impactful with how their sonic strategy is executed.

Guest Author

Aifric Lennon

Research Strategy Director MassiveMusic


Based out of our London office, Aifric is Director of Research Strategy for MassiveMusic globally. With an original background in neuroscience, she said goodbye to the medical lab to pursue a career in music, and completed an MSc in Music Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths University, graduating from her masters in 2017 and joining MassiveMusic the same year. Aifric is an expert in understanding how the connection between music and the brain can leverage brands through sound. She has led sonic identity and music strategy projects for many global brands including TikTok, Wikimedia, AccuWeather, Ithra and O2, and now heads up the MassiveMusic research department, overseeing the development and delivery of research and effectiveness offerings across the group. She was awarded as a Transform Magazine Young Contender of the Year 2022, is currently shortlisted as Creative Pool's Next Gen Talent of the year 2023 and has contributed articles and interviews to The BBC, The Drum, Design Week, Voice Magazine and more.