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Summer of women's sport

Game plan: is it finally time for football to lead the way in gender equality?

With another summer of sport now firmly in the rear-view mirror, football on the world stage has a very different reason to celebrate – the rise and rise of the women’s game.  From 41% of the UK population tuning in to see the Lionesses reach the semi-finals to US kit breaking Nike sales records (for men’s or women’s we may add) the cultural and commercial impact of the tournament was hard to ignore.  

It’s hard to believe that in just two short years, the Women’s Super League has gone from Liverpool WFC’s first-of-a-kind kit sponsorship with Avon to Barclays record-breaking deal to become first title sponsor of the Barclays FA Women's Super League. The latter was far from a mere transactional investment with the finance giant’s “History Is Anyone’s Now” initiative committing to make grassroots football accessible to all girls in schools by 2024.  

Always looking for actions over words, the On the One team took a look at some of the bravest and boldest moves in the brand world during a transformative summer for women’s football: 

Nike – Dream Further 

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It’s hard to overplay the contribution from Nike to the women’s game. From the top-down, their commitment started with the already-iconic Dream Further spot but Nike’s commitment to the grassroots was more than evident with their hosting of the first-ever female tournament at Stamford Bridge, London – 120 women from 12 different ‘Super 5 League’ teams, travelling from their local Hackney grounds to compete in Chelsea’s Fulham stadium. 

Lucozade Sport - #ThreeLionesses

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The old adage of ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’ still holds good, and for Lucozade Sport it’s inherent that their power is in the pack itself. With 16m bottles on shelves nationwide, Lioness captain Steph Houghton and defender Nikita Parris play their part in simply making the England side a household names – this visibility coupled with their reworking of the iconic Three Lions anthem provided a powerful emotional layer that harnessed the energy of the ‘It’s Coming Home’ warcry of the men’s tournament the year before.

BBC – #ChangeTheGame

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The BBC may have cleaned up in the ratings department but their World Cup success really was a team effort – the unprecedented drive behind the coverage was part of the wider #ChangeTheGame campaign that supported women’s sport with the Netball World Cup, Wimbledon, Women’s Ashes and World Athletics Championships.  And with Ms Banks onside to deliver ‘anthem of the summer’ Remember the Name, it felt like the Beeb hit all the right notes this year.

Visa – One Moment

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Whilst far from unique to football, the gender pay gap continued dominate the press agenda this summer.  Visa put its money where its mouth is and committed to the same level of investment to the men’s tournament in Russia the previous year.  That, coupled with an emotive 33-market global ad that also highlighted the plight of female entrepreneurs demonstrated the power of aligning product and purpose.

Commerzbank

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"We don't have balls. But we know how to use them." German finance giants Commerzbank walked a fine line in this subversive triumph featuring the national side’s acerbic swipe on the anonymity of the women’s game. From poking fun at tea-set victory gifts to their success vs the men’s team, the campaign proved an unexpected highlights, even if the team didn’t get past the quarter finals.

On the One are UN Women’s grassroots cultural agency – you can catch their event Game Plan: Can Football Lead the Way In Gender Equality? At Second Home, Spitalfields, London on Wed 9th October. 


By Rob Mathie, Founder of On The One

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