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women’s soccer

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What: FC Barcelona announced this week that it intends to open an NWSL franchise in the U.S.
Why it matters: A European club seeing the value of a U.S. women’s team may open the floodgates for investment by others and new partnership opportunities worldwide.

Nadia Nadim (BDZ Sports)

While LaLiga (@LaLigacontinues on with its battle to stage a regular season match in Miami in January amidst still surprising pushback, a club made an interesting next step announcement with a new, lower cost and strategic play for a point of entry into the American marketplace.

On Tuesday, news broke that FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) are in discussions to place a women’s team in the National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) as early as next year, making them the only club from outside the US to have a team in the top-tier women’s soccer league.

…[T]he NWSL … can certainly use a much needed global buzz by bringing a Barcelona brand into the mix.
Alex Morgan (Flickr/Jamie Smed)

“We are planning to open a franchise in the US, a Barcelona franchise in the American league,” said Javier Sobrino, Barcelona’s strategy and knowledge director, speaking at a conference in Qatar. “We are right now in discussion to see whether it is possible or not. It will be immediate, next season is our goal, if not the following one. A women’s team playing in the US.”

The proposed team would keep Barcelona’s name and is likely to play its home games in Los Angeles. The addition of the Spanish outfit would bring the number of teams in the NWSL up to ten, with the league hoping to have 14 franchises by 2020.

The move makes sense for a number of long-term business reasons. While men’s sides from elite clubs face many obstacles in growing the game with literal boots on the ground in the US, the emergence of women’s clubs in LaLiga, the Bundesliga (@Bundesliga_EN ‏) and even Serie A (@SerieA) have fewer hurdles for movement or growth. The Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWCnext year will provide a really strong platform to boost women’s soccer even higher, and the NWSL, which thrives in markets like Portland (@ThornsFC ‏) and Orlando but struggles mightily in markets like the New York area, can certainly use a much needed global buzz by bringing a Barcelona brand into the mix.

The Portada Brands-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

From a grassroots side, having Barcelona’s system now available in the U.S. to cultivate and teach the explosive demo of young girls can help feed the growth of professional women’s soccer globally, and can, frankly, mine and develop future young players not just for professional play but for the college side as well. The fertile and still being defined Latina market is also prime if the club does end up in soccer-rich Southern California.

Then you also have brand exposure. With Barca having a commercial presence already in the U.S., having a fulltime club able to engage gives a new entry point for anyone looking to engage with the Barca brand from afar, while the elite men’s club plays elsewhere and can be viewed on beIN Sports (@beINSPORTS). No, it’s not exactly the same, but the brand ties between the men’s and women’s club are certainly a unique way of engagement and will draw positive attention, goodwill and even sponsorship towards a club with a deeper presence in the U.S. than perhaps any other global soccer club if the move happens.

Is there a risk? Minimal. Building a women’s club in the U.S. does not have the massive dollar investment that having an elite men’s club coming to play in say, MLS, would have. The reward, for the brand, for the grassroots, and for women’s sport far outweighs the issues, and the lessons learned and path carved is great news for women’s sport, let alone women’s soccer.

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Cover Image: credit Flickr/Jamie Smed

What: FIFA has announced its plans for growing women’s soccer worldwide.
Why it matters: For FIFA, increased participation will mean increased interest in the women’s game, leading to more marketing opportunities for brands as well.

Victory Lap (Wikimedia Commons/Nicki Dugan Pogue)

If for years it has seemed like FIFA (@FIFAcomhas concentrated, say, 99 44/100% of its energies on the men’s game, it’s probably not an illusion. And while the Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWChas helped the ladies version gain popularity since the U.S. won the inaugural event in 1991, soar after the American victory in 1999, and reach new heights following the 2015 U.S. win over Japan in Canada, the lion’s share of the organizing body’s attention has focused on the men in the 100+ years since its 1904 founding.

The Portada Brand-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

With the worldwide opportunities that the women’s game now possesses, FIFA recently unveiled a new global strategy, with a stated goal of doubling women’s participation to 60 million across the globe. With the Women’ World Cup looming next summer in France, now is the time for FIFA and its Confederations to step up, and for marketers to take advantage. In fact, the Concacaf (@Concacafwomen’s championship, which determines the World Cup qualifiers, is going on now through Oct. 17.

Most importantly it will make football more accessible to girls and women and encourage female empowerment.
Sarai Bareman (via Twitter)

In what many followers of the women’s game saw as at least a good first step, two years ago FIFA set up its first Women’s Football Division, run by Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman (@SarBareman), a New Zealand native who competed for Samoa, the homeland of her mother. That same year, Fatma Samoura (@fatma_samouraof Senegal was appointed as the first female Secretary General of FIFA. These were two of the first significant moves by Gianni Infantino after replacing Sepp Blatter as FIFA’s president.

“As FIFA’s first female Secretary General I am proud to launch our first-ever global strategy for women’s football,” said Samoura in a statement. “The women’s game is a top priority for FIFA and via our new strategy we will work hand-in-hand with our 211 member associations around the world to increase grassroots participation, enhance the commercial value of the women’s game and strengthen the structures surrounding women’s football to ensure that everything we do is sustainable and has strong results. Most importantly it will make football more accessible to girls and women and encourage female empowerment, a subject of great importance, now more than ever before.”

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(Wikimedia Commons-GoToVan)

In 2015, with the Canada location providing more TV-friendly match times than the previous two Cups in China (2007) and Germany (2011), FIFA broadcast partner Fox attracted brands like Nationwide (@Nationwideand Fiat (@fiatalong with U.S. Soccer’s official sponsors Mondelez, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet and Johnson & Johnson.

Now, pool prize money increases, additional grassroots plans, and commitments to placing women in leadership positions on FIFA committees and in every member association are also part of the initiative. With the U.S. vs. Japan 2015 final attracting nearly 27 million viewers here, the most for any soccer match involving a U.S. team (men or women), interest among sponsors for the 2019 tournament should be at an all-time high.

Cover Image: credit Nicki Dugan Pogue/Wikimedia Commons