Saturday marked the beginning of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup - the largest and longest in the tournament's history - with twenty-four teams participating including eight debutants. Every single match is due to be broadcast live by the BBC, and the event is predicted to reach almost a billion viewers worldwide.
This is evidence of a growing shift in the popularity of women’s football. In 2012 after the London Olympics, FIFA announced a five-year plan which aimed to make the sport the second most played in the country behind cricket. The video game FIFA 16 will also feature female teams for the first time, and Nike has begun selling women’s football shirts in men’s sizes so that male fans can engage more with the sport.
The BBC has been generating interest in the event by effective promotion in between prime-time ‘main channel’ shows. Below is their promo spot, which features a variety of big names in the women’s game.
They have taken an interesting and brave risk in this clip. Instead of targeting avid fans of the sport, they are targeting those who may never have seen a game. The words “You don’t know me, you don’t know my name, you don’t know what I’ve done and you don’t know what I’m capable of” truthfully admits to viewers that there has been a lack of deserved media coverage of the women’s game over time. But then comes the bold statement, delivered by England women’s forward Lianne Sanderson “But you will”. This is the BBC displaying their commitment to the sport’s future. This is an announcement of the further changes to come in the promotion of the women’s game.
By being honest and blunt, the BBC have succeeded in creating a clip that not only generates excitement but reaches out to new fans. Perhaps those fans, of both genders, who are already supporters of the men’s game. Football fans.
This year’s World Cup is a big chance for women’s football to receive the recognition it deserves. Social media usage has greatly increased since the last tournament in 2011, and judging by the overwhelming volume of commentary and discussion worldwide during the men’s tournament last year, it should be expected that through social media the women’s game can raise its profile significantly this year.
Another interesting element is the unprecedented coverage of the tournament in America by the Fox Network. Aside from the purpose-built set in Vancouver, they are the first broadcast network to ever televise 16 FIFA Women’s or Men’s World Cup matches in a single tournament. It is also the first time since 2003 that any Women’s World Cup match has been broadcast in the US.
The increased effort all-round marks a large shift in branding for the event, and indeed the sport itself. Everything surrounding the brand feels more professional, with bigger budgets and better ideas and executions. Women’s football is determined to overcome its perception as a minor sport and start building a future where one day it will be seen as an equal to the men’s game.
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