An unprecedented number of corporate sponsors are supportting the 1999 Women's World Cup (WWC), which has been billed as the largest women's sporting event ever. Companies such as Adidas, Nike, Anheuser-Busch and Mattel are betting that the three-week long tournament will break open the US market. These and other companies are reported to view the WWC as 'a unique opportunity to gain a foothold (in the US) by reaching a previously unexploited market: young girls' (Financial Times, June 25).
CARMA's investigation of the WWC's coverage revealed a tremendous public response in terms of attendance and the quantity and quality of global media coverage.
There were frequent references to the tremendous upswing in popularity of the sport and the increased sponsorship that has accompanied it. The Boston Globe (June 20) reported, 'One measure of the importance of a sporting event is whether Adidas and Nike fight over sponsorship?and they are fighting over the Women's World Cup.'
The media responded favorably to the rationale behind the corporate strategy.
'The demographics of the sport are very desirable to companies. The suburban families that are educated, affluent, have young kids that play the sport' (CNNfn, June 18). Other reports predicted big sales for the sponsors.
'By tournament's end, younger viewers undoubtedly will be pestering parents for shoes and apparel like those worn by top players.' (Los Angeles Times, June 18)
The media also pointed out that the WWC and its sponsors benefit from having a highly charismatic and marketable star to attract consumers' attention. US striker Mia Hamm is not only considered by many to be the best female soccer player ever, but was also found to be 'the most marketable female athlete in the nation' (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 18).
Hamm, who was often cited as the Michael Jordan of soccer, was often singled out as the poster-child of the tournament.
Hamm's marketing power had not been lost on Madison Avenue executives, according to the press. 'The adulation of US women's soccer star Mia Hamm has created a frenzy among pre-teen females and a captive audience for advertisers with products to sell them ... It's a phenomenon advertisers, desperate to reach fickle adolescents, are hoping will help them score.' (CBS Evening News, June 19).
A Nike spokesman told the Boston Globe (June 20) 'We've worked with Mia since 1994, and I can tell you that if Mia Hamm wants to wear (a product), you can be pretty sure that a lot of 14-year-old girls are going to want to wear it too. Once they wanted to be like Mike (Jordan), now they want to be like Mia.'
Several reports addressed the growth in women's youth and college soccer and others mentioned the possibility that the WWC's success could lead to the establishment of a women's professional league.
As the WWC has attracted record crowds and media exposure, it seems likely that the fans will get a kick out of its sponsors' products.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www. carma.com.