Legacy now favours the brave for brands and partnerships in women's sport

Three days on from the Lionesses defeat to USA, the Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium is being cleared, re-branded and readied for the tournament's showcase - the World Cup Final.

Will brands still be willing to sponsor women's sport when the floodlights are dimmed, asks Rob Hughes
Will brands still be willing to sponsor women's sport when the floodlights are dimmed, asks Rob Hughes
The England bunting now removed, the stadium no longer carries the hopes of a nation willing their team to what manager Phil Neville described as "a legacy moment". 

So, what now for the Lionesses, the future of women’s football and, more broadly, the role of women’s sport?

In the build-up to - and throughout the tournament - consumers and brands have shown huge faith and commitment to the women’s game.

Ticket sales soared to just under one million, the BBC announced record TV audiences for England’s semi-final, with more than 11.7 million people tuning in, and Nike CEO Mark Parker revealed its USA Women’s World Cup shirt as its best-selling jersey of all time. 

The stats are impressive and it’s hard not to declare the tournament a roaring success - and very rightly so. 

Away from the pitch at least, the investment and audience progression towards the women’s game compared to 2015 is seismic and clear for all to see. 

But with the global floodlights now dimmed on the Lionesses and with the thick wallets of the men’s Premier League on the horizon, we may well get a truer understanding of the Lionesses legacy. 

For many brands the Women’s World Cup would have been viewed as a cultural moment, a moment not to be missed in publishing calendars through fear of being challenged with the equality question. 

With one hour until kick-off on Tuesday, self-acclaimed influencer Spencer FC pledged his support to the game’s legacy by offering a financial and kit contribution to an unnamed women’s team in the UK should the Lionesses win. 

As the comments, likes and RT’s rolled in, and with the lingering question of why such a gesture hangs solely on the result of the game, the overriding question was, is such 'band-wagoning' supporting the long-term health and stability of the women’s game and women in sport?

Their legacy is now handed to those who shone a light on them during their pinnacle moment with the question - are they willing to do it on a cold winter’s evening in Stoke? 

Rob Hughes, co-owner of Blueprint Sports

The same question may apply to multiple sectors – how many brand sponsorships end following the World Cup?

How many column inches will be dedicated to women’s domestic football come the start of the season. How many people will now go and watch Arsenal away to Bristol City? The questions go on.

For women’s football and women’s sport to continue its progression, it requires deep-rooted partnerships from brands and organisations who are willing to invest long term and be part of its evolving DNA.

Brands such as Barclays, who announced an eight-year partnership with the FA and investment in grassroots, for example, should be heralded and championed for their foresight and commitment to women’s football.

The Lionesses will return home national heroes, rightfully celebrated with changing the perception towards women’s football and creating icons to inspire future generations.

Their legacy, however, is now handed to those who shone a light on them during their pinnacle moment with the question - are they willing to do it on a cold winter’s evening in Stoke?

We’re about to find out.

Rob Hughes is the co-owner of Blueprint Sports

Thumbnail credit: Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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