Beyond the reactionary: How can brands practice what they preach after the Lionesses’ Euro2022 victory?
Written by Emily Baxter
Watching the Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 at the UEFA Women’s World Cup and finally bringing football home was an emotional moment; I felt overcome with pride.
My feelings weren’t just for the players who thrived despite clear inequality in the game, but also for the younger generation of women and girls who will be able to grow up with role models like Keira Walsh and Chloe Kelly, and for a future with more inclusion in sport and society more widely.
And, as expected, brands celebrated the win with a mix of heartfelt and humorous posts, in true British style. I’ve broken down some of my favourites.
All on the Board
All on the Board was spot on, as ever, using copy alone to encapsulate the nation’s joy, highlighting the historical significance of the crowning of our ‘heroes’.
Amazon correctly predicted the win before kick-off, showing the faith they had in the Lionesses with this Instagram post.
Amazon created positive brand association with the historic win by playfully subverting the expected language of delivery updates and Alexa reminders. It’s other brand accounts got involved too, with a comment from the Alexa account stating: ‘Setting reminder to ‘bring it home’ at 5pm.’
In this advert, Tesco adapted the classic sporting sing-along ‘Sweet Caroline’ to show their support and enjoyment of the game, as well as putting the spotlight on the individual players themselves, creating a memorable take on such a well-known cultural currency.
Sainsbury’s also invoked Neil Diamond, using their products to create an out-of-home riddle that puzzled fans and generated social engagement. Spoiler: try singing the names of the fruit and veg to the tune.
Heinz also brought humour to the table, poking fun at its brand and England’s less-than successful years in international football, while wryly bringing attention to one of their own (similarly delayed) product launches.
And lastly, Specsavers opted for the simple route by reviving their optimistic advert unveiled for the men’s Euros final with a cheeky addition, reminding us of how long we’ve waited for victory.
Ultimately, these brands are helping raise awareness of the triumph. And they are rightly highlighting a success that will inspire younger generations to come.
But I can’t help but wonder, how genuine are these brands being about this support? And how long will this last? Reactive commentary is just that: a temporary reaction that will inevitably die out. They’re effective for lighter calendar hooks such as National Ice Cream Day or International Dog Day.
But for events with real world impact like the Euros win, it can sometimes feel a little hollow for brands to voice their support at the time of success and yet not be part of the long road of support so often needed to get there in the first place.
Because what is often lacking from these brand responses is any meaningful action. If the news cycle loses interest in women’s football, will these brands continue advocating for women’s sport?
When proof is not in the pudding: The effect of inauthenticity
It would be naïve to say we haven’t seen this situation before, where brands claim to support a cause and don’t follow through.
Global fast-fashion brand H&M is the latest to be called out on greenwashing and its false claims on sustainability. A recent investigation by Quartz revealed that an H&M product marketed as using 30% less water actually used 31% more water in production.
Greenwashing moments like these only serve to erode consumer trust, rather than build it. By jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, brands end up losing the eco-conscious Gen Z audiences they had hoped to attract.
Looking beyond the five minutes of fame
With concerns like this in mind, what can brands do to support the empowerment and success of women in sport, beyond just a reactionary Tweet?
Off the back of the win, the Lionesses are worth millions in sponsorship. Now is the perfect moment for brands to invest in the bright future ahead of the team and individual players, and to follow through on their words of support with material support.
Pepsi and Visa have already jumped to sponsor squad member Lucy Bronze. Their investments and support will help grow the team’s further success, tackling financial barriers such as affording places to train and play and creating an upward spiral of success for both parties.
But, of course, the sport’s success goes beyond any single player. Brands and companies could partner and support women in sport campaigns that challenge gender stereotypes through community support such as Project51 or Get Out Get Active, a programme that supports women who are faced with additional barriers to sport such as disabilities.
And we should also look beyond just the issue of women’s football. Women’s sport as a whole has long been left out of the limelight, with national women’s cricket and hockey teams achieving huge successes and receiving pitiful levels of national and brand investment.
Long term strategies, such as pledging to equal opportunity schemes or lobbying to improve access to – and exposure of – women’s sport will be more important than ever to solidify brands as true allies.
Vitally, this is not just about the opportunity for sport, but also about the opportunity for brands to enter successful partnerships. Women’s sport is set to make over £1billion per year by 2030.
It has momentum, it is demonstrably successful, and it is growing. The goal is open. Will brands shoot to score?