The Most Marketable Athletes at the 2015 Women's World Cup
The following article has been written from the perspective of what sponsors need to consider with respect to the specific property of the Women's World Cup as well as key participants in the event. Our perspective on this opportunity does not factor in the recent controversies surrounding FIFA as a property and in no way is intended as an endorsement or support of the organization or a condemnation based on the known allegations.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2015 Women’s World Cup as Canada opens the tournament with a match against China. For the next month, the best female soccer talent in the world will gather across the country in a celebration of the sport.
The rise of interest in Canadian soccer has turned the sport into a major target of interest for corporate sponsors seeking to capitalize on the fact that we are not just a hockey country anymore – an interest that will be amplified during the Women’s World Cup. Strong performances by the Canadian Women’s National Team and the rise of grassroots participation (soccer is currently the most popular team sport for Canadian youth aged 13-17 and the third most popular activity behind swimming and dance amongst females age 3-17) have fueled a greater appetite for the sport in Canada amongst consumers and brands.
However, sponsors seeking an association with the game of soccer in Canada have few choices when it comes to target properties. Given this dynamic, many brands have chosen to invest in the low-barrier to entry athlete sponsorship model. MKTG breaks down some of the most marketable athletes in this year's Women's World Cup.
Players to Watch:
Alex Morgan, USA
With the American team listed as one of the tournament favourites, US striker Alex Morgan is one player that is sure to get a lot of recognition for her elite play and broad appeal. Morgan has already participated on the international stage at the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games. Morgan also has crossover appeal from her appearance in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition and has made guest appearances on TV shows like The Simpsons and American Idol.
Athlete Life Cycle: At 25 years old, Alex Morgan already has an impressive soccer resume. With star players like Abby Wambach expected to play in their last World Cup, Morgan is likely the next face of American women’s soccer, providing a brand with the opportunity to grow with her as a long-term partner.
Elite Performance: Alex Morgan is one of the top players in the world. She has won an Olympic Gold Medal, the U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year and has been a finalist for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Brand Extensions: Morgan has a large platform to offer sponsors with over 1.69 million Twitter followers and 910,000 Instagram followers. She has also participated in several charity events for breast and lung cancer and animal cruelty prevention.
Sponsor Clutter: Morgan currently holds deals with Nationwide Insurance, Nike, Panasonic, Coca Cola, GNC, Beats, Chapstick, Degree, and Bridgestone – a signal of her appeal to sponsorship marketers. While her large roster may represent a cluttered environment, no brand has moved beyond a tactic-by-tactic approach with Morgan to build an ownership position with the star striker
Brazil is home to some of the best soccer players in the world in both the men’s and women’s game. Brazilian striker Marta is considered one of those elite soccer players. With such a strong player comes plenty of attention during the World Cup.
Athlete Life Cycle: At age 29 Marta remains one of the best players in the world. In the prime of her career, the star is expected to continue to perform a high level in the coming year.
Elite Performance: She has won five consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year awards and won the 2007 World Cup Golden Ball as the tournaments best player. Marta is clearly a valuable talent that can lend legitimacy to a sponsor’s brand.
Brand Extensions: Marta does not maintain a social media presence but has participated in plenty of charity matches. In 2007 she became the first woman to participate in Zidane and Ronaldo's annual match against poverty.
Sponsor Clutter: Marta has appeared in creative for Puma as part of their recent “Forever Faster” campaign and has appeared in past spots showcasing her dribbling skills in front of an audience of young girls. Besides Puma Marta has a low sponsorship roster which creates an opportunity for perspective brands.
Kaylyn Kyle, Canada
With Canada hosting the tournament, the Canadian team will be the subject of player-focused storytelling from the media. Expect Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle to be centric to that storytelling. Kyle has managed to become one of the more recognized faces on Team Canada.
Athlete Life Cycle: While Kaylyn Kyle is only 26, her bench status may make Canada 2015 her final World Cup. Regardless, Kyle’s crossover appeal is likely to garner her significant opportunities as a media personality after her soccer career is over, keeping her relevant with both fans and brands.
Elite Performance: Kyle has appeared in 95 international matches for Canada dating back to 2008 . This makes her one of the longest serving members of Team Canada and speaks to her durability.
Reach: Kaylyn Kyle has the second most Twitter followers behind Christine Sinclair and over 27,000 followers on Instagram. Kyle has also appeared in Sportsnet Magazine Beauty of Sport issue which has increased her recognition. She is also very active with Right to Play currently acts as an ambassador for the organization and is an active supporter of breast cancer research through #ProjectPink
Sponsor Clutter: Kaylyn Kyle has appeared in Canadian spots for Under Armour’s #EarnYourArmour campaign in collaboration with Sport Chek, placing her likeness in stores across the country promoting the brand’s women’s line. Additionally, Kyle has been featured in Beats by Dre Color Solo spots and has consistently promoted the products over Instagram. She has been a brand ambassador for Lululemon and Golazo, a natural sports drink. While she has a number of brand partners, Kyle has only appeared in activations as one member of an athlete roster.
With international events that command a large audience, the opportunity is present for an athlete to make a name for themselves in front of the world. As is often the case with previous World Cup tournaments and Olympic Games, relatively unknown athletes can completely transform their marketing value with a single performance. Canada’s Christine Sinclair became a star after her performance against the U.S during the London Olympics. James Rodriguez was the breakout star of the men’s World Cup last summer. While the above athletes head into Canada 2015 in top, this list could have a number of new faces by the time the tournament comes to a close.