Women’s Euro 2022: New standards for fans and business engagement.

Euro 2022 is set to be a record-breaking tournament in the world of women's soccer. The first meeting, played at Old Trafford, kicked off the tournament, which is capturing the attention of tens of thousands of fans in the stadiums. Let's take a look at how such a huge event was organized and what strategy was taken to gain a competitive edge.

When the English Football Federation (FA) was granted the rights to host the UEFA Women’s European Championship in 2021, they may not have imagined the scale to which the event would grow. Even in 2018, the football industry was still getting used to the reality in which women’s football offers great opportunities. England didn’t have many rivals when they bid to host the tournament, which involves 16 European nations. The choice of the organizer took place a few months before the 2019 World Championships organized in France, which ultimately showed how great business opportunities lie dormant in this sport.

UEFA expects this year’s Women’s Euro to be watched by around 250 million viewers around the world. 31 matches played in 10 British stadiums, broadcast in nearly 200 countries. The European Football Federation has also announced that 500,000 of the 700,000 tickets have been sold, indicating that 240,000, the total number of supporters from the last edition in the Netherlands in 2017, will be at least doubled.

Women’s football has come a long way in a short time and the ambitions for this year’s Women’s Euro have naturally evolved. Even with high expectations to host another record-breaking edition, there is an overwhelming atmosphere of excitement at the FA.

“It’s nice to have these issues, but it was a challenge to grow the profile of the event so quickly,” says Tom Warwick, project leader responsible for organizing the tournament. “When we made the offer, France 2019 had not yet taken place. That Championship really took the sport to another level and since then we have seen a significant increase in the quality of services offered.

“UEFA treats it today the same as Euros for men, whereas before it was more akin to organizing youth competitions. This in itself is challenging in terms of resources and budget. But this tournament is a mega event in the eyes of everyone, including the government, so it’s only a good thing for the development of the sport.”

The Women’s Euro will be held in England for the second time, but it will be incomparable to the one in 2005, when only 8 countries competed and more than 21,000 spectators at Ewood Park watched Germany win the title against Norway.

The wait for the tournament lasts a year longer than expected, because the pandemic (as in the case of the men’s Euro) thwarted the organizers’ plans. At the time, the postponement of the tournament was considered an example of neglecting women’s sport, as organizers sought to salvage profits from the men’s competition, which was intended to dilute the momentum of the women’s tournament that had built up in previous years.

The decision was not forced, however, and there was even an option to host the Euros in the same year, but Warwick says the FA wanted to minimize the risk and maximize the chance of full stadiums. While the delay was initially perceived as negative, it also brought its later benefits.

“I think while for men the delay wasn’t what we wanted, for women it just gave us more time to engage all stakeholders,” explains Warwick. “In other words, to raise awareness of the tournament, to sell more tickets, but more importantly, to open the door to football for other women.”

“We’ve been working with the host cities for two years, we’ve really built a solid foundation and improved all of the FA’s work, and that was really important as more partners joined the event.

”The most tangible indicator of the event’s success was the speed with which tickets disappeared from stores. This coincided with a period in which women’s football in England was becoming more visible thanks to the new BBC and Sky Sports pay-TV offering. All of the Lionesses’ group stage matches have been sold out and there is no room left for the final at Wembley, which has a capacity of almost 90,000 fans. Equally gratifying is the fact that tickets have been purchased in 99 countries, including non-European countries such as the USA, China and Australia, with 20% of visitors coming from overseas.

Affordable prices were decisive. In some cases, a family of four could purchase tickets for as little as £30. The cheapest tickets for non-home matches cost just £5, while the best seats for the final cost £50. Affordability aims to make the tournament accessible to everyone. UEFA reported that 43% of tickets were purchased by women and 21% of orders were received from young people under 16.

“From the beginning, we wanted to have as full stadiums as possible,” says Warwick. “Not only at England games, but throughout the tournament. With women’s competitions, there’s often a lot of people at home games and then less spectators at other games, and that’s something we really wanted to change.”

“In the beginning we had to choose the stadiums. We need big arenas and we got them. We approached everything ambitiously and chose Old Trafford for the opening and then the final at Wembley. We have five or six Premier League stadiums, but we also have those smaller capacity stadiums that allow us to fill them up and communicate that seats are running out and achieve the effect of fear of losing. I think it really helped in terms of increasing the demand for other matches.”

The Local Organizational Structure has appointed five agencies to meet its sales targets, including Two Circles, which provides fan information and data analytics to increase visitor numbers. M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment is running a public relations and communications campaign to bring attention to the tournament, with Matta, Threepipe Reply and Heart Productions supporting the organization of the event.

As for attendees, Warwick says the association uses a focused CRM strategy to attract women with whom the board already has built relationships, but efforts have also been made to reach out to attendees at similar events. The remaining tickets are expected to sell when the tournament starts.

“Things are constantly changing,” adds Jenny Mitton, Business Director and Women’s Sports Director at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment when asked about audience demographics. “At first, they were mostly dedicated women’s football fans, but since the sale started, we’ve noticed a few other groups that we didn’t expect would be so strong.”

“The classic model is of course ‘fathers with children’. There were many single men buying tickets with many children. Also gene Z appears more and more. The last sales figures we looked at were 39% of Gen-Z tickets, so you can see a growing commitment from them.”

“So the range is getting wider. Until they started selling tickets, I don’t think they knew what the whole audience was going to look like. So it’s the job of the communications team and the marketing team to get our message across to all the target groups we don’t reach.”

The diversity of the audience is undoubtedly one of the things that appeals to the wide range of brands that have signed up as sponsors for Women’s Euro 2022. There are 13 official Women’s Euro partners, including Heineken, Adidas, Visa, Nike, Volkswagen and Hublot.

The most interesting is the presence of brands less present in broadly understood football and sports marketing, such as Euronics and Grifols. This proves UEFA’s decision to separate patronage rights over women’s goods from men’s goods, which may have reduced the entry costs of new partners.

But there are similar trends at the local level, with sponsorships offered by Lego, LinkedIn, Pandora, Starling Bank and Gillette Venus. Again, with one or two exceptions, we are dealing with companies that are not usually associated with sport, indicating that brands are increasingly seeing opportunities in sponsoring women that better meet their needs and are more oriented to their values . For example, Starling is a founder-managed bank in a male-dominated industry, so it’s no surprise that the Women’s Euro seemed to be a good fit for the company.

“These are really premium brands, which really impresses me,” says Mitton. “If you look at men’s sponsorship, you’ll see a lot of car brands, cryptocurrencies that you may not have heard of, but for women’s Euros, they’re super-premium and mostly new to football. I think it shows faith in the future of women’s sport and the target audience it attracts. It’s a large, diverse pool of people, probably younger than other sports.”

These brands will have the opportunity to exhibit their company during the so-called fan zones, which will be organized in nine cities where the matches will take place. The FA works closely with these venues to ensure a consistent look, whether it’s London, Leigh, Sheffield or Southampton. As always, however, the point is that over the next three weeks, at least some people will become fans of women’s football – both in England and in other countries participating in the Euro.

Record-breaking events are becoming the norm, but there is still a long way to go before the same interest and investment can be felt in the country. The FA believes that at grassroots level, the tournament will create 500,000 inclusive opportunities for women and girls to play football. Most importantly, it is hoped that the thrilling tournament will also help fill stadiums at Women’s Super League matches, for which the women’s football authorities plan to increase the average number of spectators per game to 6,000 by 2024.

Looking at Euro 2022 Women, one can get the impression that this event is on the right track to create a model and benchmark for organizing future editions. In addition to sponsorship investments and ambitious ticket sales targets, the EY report estimates that the tournament will

generates £54m in economic activity for host cities, which will certainly not go unnoticed by other potential organizing countries. England probably didn’t even realize the scale to which the tournament would grow, and UEFA has already registered record interest in organizing Euro 2025. Countries are increasingly aware of business opportunities related to women’s sports events.

With so many promises, all that remains is for the tournament to live up to expectations. It certainly brings its pressures, but Warwick is confident the product will still hold its own.

“We want to break records,” he says. “We don’t see this as a turning point. To be honest, I think that stage is already behind us. They are elite athletes performing at a major event. This sport is only going in one direction and the potential for growth is huge.”

“It’s not a burden to carry because it’s all just exciting; we can’t wait to break different records.

”The article was based on the translation of Sam Carp’s analysis from SportsPro entitled “This is a mega event in everyone’s eyes’: How Women’s Euro 2022 is setting a new benchmark for engagement and commercial activity”

Udostępnij na:
Ostatnie wpisy