One of the biggest propellants of any sport is when major brands begin sponsoring events, such as Women’s Euro 2022. Not only does the additional revenue help grow the game, but the extra eyeballs that a big brand campaign can bring help to cement the sport in the public consciousness.
But with great publicity comes great responsibility, particularly when it comes to women’s football and the quest for parity with the men’s game.
There are many marketing sins that brands commit when attempting a heartfelt acceleration of progress. Most of which unwittingly regress the sport by reinforcing misconceptions or just end up sounding a bit misogynistic by trying really, really hard not to be.
So with Women’s Euro 2022 being the biggest sporting event of the summer, how have some of the biggest brand campaigns fared when it comes to not sounding like they’ve been written by middle-aged men?
Well, Visa has failed spectacularly. In what must be the laziest advert of the tournament, their proclamation that “When more of us play, all of us win” is the primary school equivalent of getting a sticker for taking part.
The messaging is unbelievably patronising, while the production values make the Euros feel amateurish.
Heineken wants to help reduce gender bias in football – a noble act. But they’ve missed an open goal by choosing a trivial example in their idea of “The 12th Woman”.
Campaigns like this could be really detrimental in leaving many people feeling like they can’t say anything these days. Or worse, it just makes the idea of gender bias a frivolous problem that’s solved by Harry Redknapp wearing a T-shirt.
EE’s “Hope United” campaign broke new ground last year in the battle against online abuse, and their follow-up for the Euros is just as powerful, tackling sexist online hate that many women experience.
The supremely-shot advert showcases all the problems that footballers might face, from injuries and periods to balancing motherhood with training, before landing the one problem that stops with men – sexist hate. It’s punchy, entertaining and avoids consigning the women’s game to a charitable cause.
Electronics giant Hisense has tried so hard to do the right thing I feel like giving them a hug. Their campaign, “Remember their name”, feels like the right thing to do but in this case it just homogenises the game with some second-rate production values.
There’s also an unnecessarily worthy narrative that proclaims, “You not only stand as women, but as legends”. I’ll just leave that there.
LinkedIn’s campaign promotes the importance of visible female role models by making 67-year-old former England player Carol Thomas walk 30 miles from Crewe to Manchester. Aside from the needless trek, the campaign feels right for them as a networking brand but wrong for the women’s game by banging the over-played prophecy drum.
Asking who’s going to follow in her footsteps just reinforces the notion that the players of today are just a stepping stone for those of tomorrow.
Finally, there’s Nike and its campaign, “Never Settle, Never Done” is simply brilliant. Leah Williamson, Ada Hegerberg, Alexia Putellas, Lucy Bronze – it’s got all the big names.
The TV advert is a fast-paced, intricately cut rollercoaster that transitions between scenes using more tricks than Putellas does on the pitch.
And the campaign doesn’t stop there, with some delightful projections adorning the White Cliffs of Dover, Tower Bridge and Battersea Power Station making this year’s tournament feel as big as it really is.
This is a brand that is putting the game on the highest pedestal. Thank the goddess of victory for that.
Steve Howell is executive creative director at agency Dark Horses.