The Honeymoon Period of the Women’s World Cup: Is It Here to Stay?

As the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup came to an end last week, we all can agree that it was nothing short of a dominating American performance.

From the start of the tournament it seemed destined for the U.S. to win and allow the longtime face of women’s soccer Abby Wambach to go out on top holding that elusive World Cup trophy. Having experienced much success on the field in recent years (2011 World Cup Finalist and 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists), it was expected for the Americans to finish as champions. With such high expectations of victory it is no surprise that the final match against Japan, a rematch of that 2011 heartbreaking loss, was the most watched soccer match in United States history with viewership seen by 26.7 million, and over 43 million viewers tuning in at some point during the match (“Women’s World Cup Final”).

Do these figures signify a rise in women’s sports, in particular women’s soccer? It is hard to deny that interest is growing, especially when viewership for the women’s final surpassed any men’s game by over a million viewers. When looking at figures of involvement in Major League Soccer, female attendance has skyrocketed since the last Women’s World Cup in 2011, making up over half off the attendance during last year’s season. This is going against the world trend, which has seen female attendance drop to almost a third of total attendance as seen by the figures below.

Soccer – MLS Attendance: % by Gender
Year 2011 2012 2013 2014
Male 62.9 54.4 59.6 45.9
Female 37.1 45.6 40.4 54.1
Total 100 100 100 100
Base (No. attending – add 000*) 4,843 3,814 5,205 4,257
**Includes U.S. attendance only
Source: SBRnet

___________________________________________________________________________

Soccer – (non-USA) Attendance: % by Gender
Year 2011 2012 2014
Male 60.6 47.6 65.6
Female 39.4 52.4 35.4
Total 100 100 100
Base (No. attending – add 000*) 2,164 1,540 1,953
Source: SBRnet

As the data shows, the sport of soccer is increasingly growing with American women. However, as exciting as it was to surround ourselves with compatriots and cheer on the women’s side, won’t the excitement and attention dwindle as America’s short attention span switches to baseball and football? Similar excitement occurred following the 2009 Gold Medal campaign, but even that could not keep the newly created women’s professional league lasting more than three years, becoming the second league to fold in a decade. As comparable as these two exciting periods are, key differences set 2015 apart as being the beginning of a successful women’s soccer following in the U.S.

For one U.S. Women’s Soccer has multiple players with promising marketability, and as sports marketing expert Joe Favorito (@joefav) adds, the most impressive sign of the growth of the sport was “the commercial leading into Carli Lloyd’s appearance (on The CBS Morning Show) with her teammate Christine Press, for Coppertone.” The fact that massive products such as Coppertone are branding themselves with these stars of women’s soccer is incredibly promising, and shows the trust brands have that the sport will continue to grow and increase the Return on Investment of sponsoring women players (Favorito, 2015).

Second, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are just a year away, another platform for American soccer stars to shine and win. With the games being so close in time, companies will continue to brand themselves with the heroes of the final last Sunday, bringing continual attention to the players and the game.

In addition, as former New York Times and Wall Street Journalist Mary Pilon (@marypilon) notices the salaries for players in the National Women’s Soccer League is a mere “$6,000-$30,000,” with a salary cap of around “$200,000” (Pilon, 2015). This type of gender inequality has garnished national attention, and again will continue to have women’s soccer in the headlines as the league fights to have equal monetary status with the men’s league. With sports like women’s tennis recently gaining equal pay it is possible that soon the women’s league could begin to make strides in the same direction, opening up countless sponsorship opportunities which have proved lucrative as Fox Sports brought in $40 million in advertising during the World Cup (Lynch, 2015).

Last Sunday’s World Cup Final in Canada was everything we hoped it would be: goals, technical skill, and the American side finishing on top. Bars across America erupted when the final whistle blew, bringing an end to the exciting month-long tournament. However while the tournament did end, the reach of these stars that have quickly become household names did not. Nothing attracts Americans quite like winning, and as the U.S. team showed that is what they do best. With the success of this World Cup, the Olympics just a year away and the sponsors who have signed these players, a following for women’s soccer is here to stay.

This blog was written by Samford University student Graham Lehman. You can learn more about Graham Lehman at https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=384349900&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

References:

Favorito, J. (2015). Sports Marketing & PR Roundup. “Women’s World Cup Success;

What’s Next?” Retrieved from: http://joefavorito.com/2015/07/07/womens-world-cup-success-whats-next/.

Lynch, J. @2015). Adweek. “Fox Nets $40 Million in Revenue from its Women’s World

Cup Coverage. Retrieved from: http://www.adweek.com/news/television/fox-

nets-40-million-ad-revenue-its-women-s-world-cup-coverage-165826.

Pilon, M. (2015). Politico.eu. “The World Cup Pay Gap”. Retrieved from:

http://jezebel.com/winning-womens-soccer-team-paid-40-times-less-than-men-1715953132.

“Women’s World Cup Final Seen by Record 26.7 Million in U.S.” WXYZ. Retrieved

From: http://www.wxyz.com/sports/womens-world-cup-final-seen-by-record-267-million-in-us.

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