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Total Potential of Women’s Football Sponsorship Undervalued by Over US$1 Billion

08 July 2019
This article is more than 1 year old.

London, 8th July 2019 – The total potential worth of sponsorship in women’s football globally is undervalued by over US$1 billion, according to the leading independent brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance. The latest analysis, which models the differences between men’s and women’s football World Cup viewership and prize money as well as current sponsorship within the men’s game, estimates the value of women’s football sponsorship globally at US$1.2 billion more than where it currently stands. The analysis features in the Brand Finance Football Annual 2019 alongside other insights on club brand values, sponsorship effectiveness, league reputation, and stadia performance.

The immense disparity between current and potential sponsorship value for women’s football demonstrates the funding gap that women’s sides are facing. Could clubs be utilising their sponsorship deals more effectively? The current practice of bundling men and women sponsorship into one package is a key cause of revenue loss for rights holders and of marketing loss for corporate brands.

As women’s football continues to rise in popularity, the sport would benefit greatly from separating out these deals and inviting a broader variety of brands to sponsor the game. Brand Finance expects that – building on the success of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 which saw record viewership figures – women's leagues and clubs globally will be searching for ways to tap into the estimated US$1.2 billion of sponsorship value left on the table.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“It is clear that there is a monumental gap in the market for women’s football sponsorship. Recent deals, including Visa’s seven-year contract with UEFA and Lucozade’s support of the English Lionesses, are steps in the right direction to utilise the rise in popularity of the sport. As the women’s game gains more attention globally, following the success of the 2019 World Cup, we will no doubt see a more permanent shift in the business dynamic as well as the social dynamic of football.”

Bryn Anderson, Sports Valuation Director at Brand Finance, commented:

"As corporate brands take first steps into women's football sponsorship, the necessity for partnership evaluation and return on investment valuation has never been greater. Has the sponsorship raised awareness, changed corporate image, changed customer attitudes and behaviours towards the brand? It is important for brands to monitor sponsorship effectiveness to provide tactical, strategic, and ROI insight in a relatively new and exciting but largely untested market."

Superstars and Endorsements

On Sunday, the USA women’s football team made history by securing their fourth victory in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, scoring a record-breaking 26 goals throughout the competition. The team’s unwavering style, consistency, and determination have proven why the USWNT are the world’s no.1 women’s team with the best talent in the game. Co-captain Megan Rapinoe has well and truly stolen the show: winning the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball, and claiming player of the match for the final.

Bryn Anderson, Sports Valuation Director at Brand Finance, commented:

“Endorsement deals for Megan Rapinoe and her peers, including the highly marketable Alex Morgan, will inevitably come in off the back of the team’s World Cup success. The game needs superstars to help raise the profile and realise the potential.”

Sponsorship through women’s football may also offer many brands exposure to an audience of young ambitious females who may have been unreachable through the men’s game. By getting into these channels early, sponsors will be able to better understand their audience and tailor their messages accordingly.

Money vs. Viewership

The sensation caused by the World Cup has also boosted the debate over equal pay in the sport. Women players’ wages are a fraction of their male counterparts. The winners of this year's FIFA Women's World Cup will receive double the amount of prize money compared to the 2015 winners, with US$4 million up for grabs, and the overall prize fund has also doubled – to US$30 million. Nevertheless, the winners of the next men’s World Cup can expect to take away US$40 million, with total prize money reaching a staggering US$440 million.

The USWNT’s frustrations in particular are amplified against the backdrop of the US men’s national team currently receiving more pay, despite failing to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The entire women’s team is in the process of suing U.S. Soccer. Tennis is one of the sports at the forefront in terms of gender equality where we now see equal prize money for men and women at major tournaments such as Wimbledon. There is no reason why we should not see football undergo more significant changes as the game inevitably continues to grow.

In the UK, for instance, mirroring the success across the pond, the World Cup became the most watched women’s football tournament on television to date, with British viewing figures alone reaching a staggering 11.7 million viewers for the USA vs. England semi-final. With prediction of total viewing figures at nearly a billion globally for the whole tournament, it is clear that the interest in the women’s game is following a sharp upward trajectory, even if - with figures hitting a 3.5 billion mark for the 2018 Men’s World Cup - women’s football still has some ground to make up.

Bryn Anderson, Sports Valuation Director at Brand Finance, commented:

“Sunday brought us the final of what was a highly successful women’s football World Cup. The tournament broke various records in terms of TV audiences, online following, and general coverage. As viewership normally determines the magnitude of sponsorship deals and prize pots, the World Cup should be a catalyst for a business revolution in the women’s game.”

Whilst popularity of women’s football has started to take off at the national level, the next stage is further development at the league level. Having understood the changing rules, some corporate brands are already getting ahead of the game. In March 2019, the established British banking brand Barclays agreed a multi-million sponsorship deal with the Football Association Women's Super League (FA WSL) from the start of the 2019/20 season. The three-year contract is reported to be in excess of £10 million, which includes a £500,000 prize for the league champions, the first in its history. With the FA describing the deal as "the biggest ever investment in UK women's sport by a brand", it is a true milestone for women’s sport, marking the beginnings of change.

Late to the Party

As sponsors continue to invest, it will be interesting to observe the balance of power between national leagues and clubs. Europe’s largest clubs are starting to invest more resources into their respective women’s teams. FA WSL matches will be played as double-headers alongside certain Premier League fixtures in the coming campaign. There have also been active steps with regards to better scheduling so that audiences are not split between watching their favourite men’s or women’s teams and can instead watch both. There is also a continual drive to move more women’s fixtures into their respective club’s main stadium which could be key in generating match attendance.

9 of the top 10 most valuable football brands, as ranked in the Brand Finance Football 50 report, now have an official women’s team. Only Real Madrid – the world’s most valuable football brand – lags behind but has recently announced plans to purchase local women’s side CD Tacon to officially join the women’s game in June 2020. Second-placed Manchester United only established its women’s side in May 2018, which has since been promoted from the Championship to the FA WSL for the 2019/20 season along with Tottenham. Big names being promoted for the first time signals the larger clubs’ intent to succeed in the women’s game, despite being slower to partake.

Despite nearly all European powerhouses now fielding women’s teams, the success enjoyed by the men’s sides is rarely mirrored by the women’s teams, and vice versa. From Brand Finance’s top 10, only Arsenal have won the UEFA Women’s Champions League, with PSG and Barcelona achieving runner up positions. At the same time, the most decorated team in the competition is Lyon, winning an impressive six times, followed closely by Frankfurt who have claimed the title four times. Sweden’s Umeå, victorious twice in the Champions League, continue to outshine their male counterparts who only play in the Swedish third division.

Bryn Anderson, Sports Valuation Director at Brand Finance, commented:

“The coming years will likely see many of the top European clubs among the winners in the women’s game. The fact that the top two brands were the slowest to the party in terms of establishing a women’s side shows that - whilst late - they have wised up to potential benefits that it can bring. As viewership grows, so should sponsorship and broadcast revenue, and hence further resources can be invested in players.”


Note to Editors
The financial estimations of sponsorship disparity in women’s and men’s football are taken from the Brand Finance Football Annual 2019 – a hard-back coffee table book on the changing face of the business of football – due for publication in August 2019.

The Annual features detailed club brand profiles and provides in-depth analysis on club brand values, sponsorship effectiveness, league reputation, and stadia performance. It includes special contributions by LaLiga, Juventus, and Barclays, among others. The Annual builds on the findings of the Brand Finance Football 50 2019 report on the world’s most valuable and strongest football club brands.

Detailed explanation of calculations and methodology is available upon request.

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Konrad Jagodzinski
Konrad Jagodzinski
Communications Director
Brand Finance
Florina Cormack-Loyd
Florina Cormack-Loyd
Senior Communications Manager
Brand Finance

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