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The New Era of Sports Marketing: How Creators & Athletes Are Changing the Game at the 2023 Women’s World Cup

July 24, 2023 | 5 min read

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

Athlete-centric marketing and creator-led activations have stolen the show at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 as brands like TikTok, Nike, Therabody, and French telecom company Orange approach sports marketing around this year’s tournament through the lens of amplifying athlete stories and celebrating the power of sport.
In this article,
  • The Advertising Environment Surrounding the 2023 Women’s World Cup
  • Why Athlete Stories, Creators Are Playing a Leading Role Across World Cup Content
  • The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Brand Activations That Are Capturing Headlines

FIFA estimates as many as two billion viewers will tune in for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, making the tournament one of the year's biggest and most anticipated sporting events and cultural moments. The 32 qualifying teams will play in more than 60 matches, with an estimated 1.5 million fans in attendance. 

With women's sports growing increasingly popular among brands and viewers, this year's World Cup presents an unparalleled opportunity for brands to engage with passionate fans of the game and the global community through digital channels, streaming platforms, social media, athlete partnerships, and more.

Sports media companies and athletes have seen high advertiser demand in the lead-up to the Women's World Cup, particularly as soccer grows more and more popular among U.S. sports fans. TV ad inventory is nearly sold out, according to Fox Sports, which holds U.S. broadcasting rights for this year's tournament.

This year is also the first time the games have been hosted by two countries—Australia and New Zealand—and in the Southern Hemisphere. Depending on game time, matches will air on FOX and FS1, with Spanish-language coverage on Telemundo and streaming service Peacock. Fox Sports also plans to livestream video shows on Twitter throughout the tournament, with streaming access available via YouTube TV, Fubo, and Hulu + Live TV. 

Platforms like Netflix, Twitter, and TikTok are playing a leading role in the FIFA Women's World Cup, capitalizing on emerging trends around sports fandoms and live sports content. Netflix announced a new documentary series that will follow the US Women's National Team as they compete for the 2023 World Cup.

Sports media companies and athletes have seen high advertiser demand in the lead-up to the Women's World Cup, particularly as soccer grows more and more popular among U.S. sports fans.

This year's World Cup tournament will also be a litmus test for Meta's recently-launched Threads, as it's unclear how audiences will use the new platform around sports moments and live events or if Twitter will remain the go-to destination for real-time engagement among fans and brands during live sporting events.

TikTok and FIFA have partnered to offer tailored content, including behind-the-scenes footage of team arrivals and post-game celebrations, plus live pre-match content, match highlights, player reactions, and more, that's all accessible via the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Hub on TikTok. To date, #WomensFootball boasts over 3.7 billion views, with hashtags like #FIFAWorldCup, #FIFAWomensWorldCup, and #FIFAWWC garnering a combined 38.2 billion views on TikTok.

TikTok also announced a unique creator activation for this year's Women's World Cup to bring the global community closer to the action. TikTok creators from more than 15 countries will attend various matches throughout the tournament to cheer on their favorite teams and give the TikTok community a real-time look through the eyes of their favorite creators.

"Leveraging a dedicated, diversified creator strategy around the Women's World Cup is a smart move by FIFA as content creators can expertly build positive sentiment for both the brand and the event itself," said Cole Mechelke, influencer & branded content senior associate at PMG. "By providing real-time updates of games, behind-the-scenes looks, and intimate fan and player moments from the stadiums during tournament play, creators will help drive up the familiarity and favorability of players. Just as the NBA's skyrocketing popularity among fans is, in part, attributed to fans garnering access to a more intimate look into the lives and personalities of the top players, the Women's World Cup has the potential to captivate millions of new fans by providing a more three-dimensional view of each country's roster through the authentic and relatable lens of influencer talent."

FIFA brand sponsors include Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, Wanda Group, and Hyundai Motors, with Unilever, McDonald's, and software company Globant as the Women's World Cup brand sponsors. Leading brands, including Nike, Volkswagen, Allstate, Visa, AT&T, and Chipotle, among others, are official brand partners of the US National Women's Team. Similar to prior sporting events, we can expect non-sponsor brands to ambush the airwaves and engage with fans to celebrate tournament play.

Already, brands from Adobe and Lego to FanDuel and Frito-Lay have launched 2023 World Cup activations, campaign messaging, and special edition product collections, with more sure to follow. Across this year’s collection of advertising spots, athlete-centric marketing and creator-led activations have stolen the spotlight.

Brands like Nike and Therabody are focusing on athlete-led creative and storytelling to celebrate the power of sports and engage in cultural conversations around bias in sports and pay equity among female athletes. Before the tournament began, a viral ad by French telecom company Orange sparked social conversation around bias in sports viewership trends, with the ad racking up millions of views and comments across platforms such as TikTok, Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter with the message and creative use of visual effects demonstrating that women's sports are just as thrilling—action-packed—as men's.

Across this year’s collection of advertising spots, athlete-centric marketing and creator-led activations have stolen the spotlight.

"We're seeing more brands strategically approach this year's World Cup through the lens of amplifying athlete stories, which in turn, is helping to elevate women's soccer players and making them household names that transcend the game," said Caroline Corley, brand media senior associate at PMG. "This approach is primarily coming to life through athlete-led video creative, like Nike's 'What the Football,' which features players like Ada Hegerberg, Alex Morgan, Asisat Oshoala, and Chloe Kelly, to name a few, and is followed by episodic player interviews. Anecdotally, it seems that the brand campaigns surrounding prior FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments focused more on promoting the national teams more broadly versus what we're seeing this year, with a hyperfocus on the individual players that make up the roster and brands using their influence and reach to help to share their unique stories with the world."