The beautiful game. Soccer or football, the world’s most beloved sport, is booming in popularity, and nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the incredible growth that women’s soccer has been experiencing around the globe. Starting this week, the world of sports will be focused on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which takes place in New Zealand and Australia, and that promises to be a golden opportunity for Women’s Sports to show its value. Ahead of the start of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Mediaprobe decided to compare pairs of equivalent men’s and women’s soccer games across three different markets: the US, the UK, and Portugal. The games selected provide a mix between national and continental club competitions, and international games, with the goal to understand the differences in how men’s and women’s soccer games are consumed, as well as to assess the value of both for brands.
Women’s Soccer Games Win on Overall Engagement, Men’s games create higher peaks of emotions
One thing stood immediately out: women’s matches scored 28% higher on Emotional Impact Score (EIS) than Mediaprobe’s Overall Soccer Norm. When comparing only the selected pair of games the difference was only slightly lower, with Women’s games outperforming Men’s by 25%.
More interestingly, women’s games outscored the equivalent men’s games by 5%. These results show an evolving landscape where we can see women’s games becoming more emotionally impactful and engaging. And while the audience ratings for women’s soccer games aren’t on par with men’s games, this growing interest shows that the potential for growth is clearly present.
And, while overall women’s games achieved a higher EIS, men’s games had higher peak emotional moments where the match led viewers to more moments of stronger emotional impact, and those moments tend to be stronger when compared to what we measured during women’s games. In fact, men’s games were 2.5x more likely to create high peak emotionally impactful moments, something we’ve seen during our Men’s World Cup analysis last year. This difference might be due to the fact that men’s games in our sample had a higher number of goals on average (men’s games: 2.8 goals vs women’s games: 1.8 goals).
This data highlights what seems to be a different emotional profile of men’s and women’s soccer games. Whereas men’s games seem to elicit stronger peak emotional impact moments, we see women’s games showing less of those peak moments but having a more stable emotional impact on viewers throughout the match. A perspective that highlights the growing interest of audiences in women’s sports.
Both sets of games also elicited different emotional impact responses to different audiences, with women viewers showing a higher EIS overall, but with a marked difference in the women’s games where they outscored men viewers by 17%. So, while overall we saw that women’s games reached an average higher EIS compared with men’s games, that result is driven by women viewers.
Men, as an audience, continue to show higher emotional reactions to men’s soccer games, showing there is still a gap that needs to be closed when promoting women’s games. In fact, while women viewers showed only a slightly higher emotional impact for women’s games (+1%), men clearly showed a higher engagement during men’s games with a 12% higher EIS compared to women’s games.
Women’s Soccer Presents Brands an Opportunity to Create Impact
This shift also presents new possibilities for brands to both amplify and diversify their audiences through women’s soccer partnerships and sponsorships. And brands seem eager to grasp the opportunity that the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup presents to score with new audiences through direct sponsorships of the tournament and broadcasts, by partnering with athletes, or by buying commercial space during the games.
And our analysis shows that betting on women’s soccer games in fact yields tangible benefits for brands. Both sponsors and regular advertisers achieved higher EIS in women’s games when compared to equivalent men’s counterparts. In fact, sponsor ads in women’s games scored 6.5% higher than what men’s games scored for sponsors during equivalent games, while the difference for commercials was even higher with women’s games outperforming men’s by 15.3%.
Even more relevant from a brand awareness perspective, brand recall measured in post-game surveys was higher in women’s games with 3% more viewers being able to correctly recall at least one brand at the end of the game. Both sets of games showed to be a good avenue to promote brand awareness, with most brands present during the broadcast being correctly named in post-game free recall questions (brands correctly remembered – women’s games: 86% vs men’s games: 87%).
Looking into our data, and the growing evidence of a cultural and societal change in how women’s sports, in general, and women’s soccer more specifically are perceived, it is clear that there is an untapped potential waiting to be unleashed for brands and broadcasters alike to seize.
And while it’s true that we are still ways off from seeing the same level of reach for women’s competition as we’ve been seeing in the men’s tournament, a smart strategy that looks to understand how best to leverage the high emotional impact of women’s soccer games to achieve high-quality impressions, will certainly lead to a win for brands that take into consideration viewers emotional engagement with content into their media plan.