- Americans love the big event
In case you missed the news yesterday – the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between the USA and Japan became the most watched soccer match in U.S. history. On a beautiful July 4th weekend 26.7 million Americans tuned in to witness the historic event, eclipsing viewership for the 2014 Men’s World Cup Final (26.5M). Ratings of this magnitude are driven in large part by “Event Seekers” – people who primarily tune in to watch soccer during big events such as the World Cup. These individuals have several points of motivation, not least of which is the patriotic desire to cheer on their country. According to a study by Influenster, 58% of Americans tuned into the Women’s World Cup to support the USA.
We will see the impact on TV ratings of Event Seekers again in 2016 when the U.S. Women’s Team competes in the Brazil Olympics and the U.S. Men feature in Copa America Centenario – a special 100-year celebration event that will staged in the U.S.
- The U.S. Team drove the event
On the women’s side of the sport, the U.S. is a dominant force. The narrative of this World Cup was heavily U.S. laden in part because of the team’s status and in part because the event took place in neighboring Canada.
Not surprisingly 95% of event tickets were purchased by Canadians and Americans, and broader control in Vancouver has been a hive of activity throughout the tournament.
FOX event promotion heavily drove the U.S. story and they rode the wave of red, white, blue through the July 4th weekend. Along the way other mainstream media outlets jumped on board the U.S. Teams’ journey engaging the soccer fan, but also the patriotic Event Seeker. U.S. dominance was reflected in the TV ratings. Overall tournament ratings were up 45% (very healthy growth) from the Women’s World Cup in 2011, but viewership for U.S. matches was up a super impressive 120%.
- Growth in female viewership
The male demo typically drives sports viewership, and while strong for the Women’s World Cup, FOX reported seeing most growth among the female audience. According to Bloomberg women’s viewership of the tournament was up more than 100% from the Women’s World Cup in 2011. Much like the ’99 U.S. Team of Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers and co. this group of women has an appeal that extends well beyond soccer, creating an identity and connection with girls and women of all ages.
- The World Cup is in good hands with FOX
When FOX won the rights to broadcast FIFA events through 2026 reaction from soccer observers was mixed. Even FOX acknowledged that ESPN had set a high bar in terms of production and promotion. The network was under the microscope – how would they handle the big event. In our opinion they did a fantastic job.
Bloomberg reported that FOX spent $15 million marketing the tournament that included 3,500 promo spots on FOX network channels beginning in January, aggressive OOH in major cities, and strong digital promotion.
An impressive media headquarters in Vancouver provided a picturesque home base for the tournament that was ably anchored by Rob Stone and Sky Sports’ import, Kate Abdo.
A key ingredient for success, of course, is the broadcast talent calling and analyzing the matches. FOX employed a sizeable team and for the most part talent performed well. Our personal favorites were Ariane Hingst, Heather Mitts, Alexi Lalas, Tony DiCicco, and the quintessential pro JP Dellacamera.
- Sponsor activity was strong – but not just from the obvious places
FOX reportedly generated $17 million in ad sales for the tournament – three times what ESPN achieved in 2011. Twenty plus advertisers stepped up, but the majority of the most aggressive marketers were neither FIFA nor U.S. Soccer sponsors. We previously wrote a blog post highlighting three brands that in our opinion leveraged the moment the best.
- Keep an eye on digital steaming
While still a fraction of overall viewership, soccer’s millennial fan base helped drive record breaking streaming viewership numbers. Infact, the top three most-watched events on FOX Sports Go platform all time came from the Women’s World Cup: U.S. vs. Colombia (164,00), U.S. vs. China (137,000), and U.S. vs. Australia (119,000). For comparison purposes, viewership on Fox Sports Go for NFC Championships (96,000) and MLB World Series Game 7 (103,000).
* Streaming numbers for the World Cup Final were not available at time of publishing.
- Soccer and social media go together like Bonnie and Clyde
Most marketers now appreciate the insatiable appetite U.S. soccer fans have for social media. From the World Cup in Brazil to Major League Soccer to the UEFA Champions League, soccer fans can’t resist turning to their favorite social channels to discuss and debate the sport they love. The Women’s World Cup was no different with U.S. matches regularly top trending topics on Twitter.
Several brands looked to get in the action. Predictably, sportswear giants, Nike and adidas, battled for the social media crown – with the U.S. Soccer partner Nike coming out on top. More interestingly perhaps, was the performance of hashtags generated by non-endemic brands. We tracked over a dozen such hashtags on Keyhole.co and credit to Nationwide’s #BandTogether that came out on top Sunday night.
- If you’re looking for role models this U.S. Team gives you plenty of choices
Not all professional athletes are role models, and to be fair, not every player on the U.S. Women’s National Team is a role model. However, one would be hard pressed to find a sports team that has more genuine inspirational personalities. Just click here to watch this new ABC Columbus piece to get a sense of the connection Alex Morgan and co. have with young girls.
If displaying an athlete poster on your bedroom wall is a further indicator of role model status it’s good to know that the U.S. Women’s National Team is the most popular team for the leading decal company, Fathead.
- The FIFA scandal did not detract from the spectacle
A month ago soccer was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons as allegations of bribery and corruption centered squarely around FIFA. While serious issues remain, the Women’s World Cup showed that the appeal of the athletes and excitement of the action on the field is what fans care most about. Sport is a powerful force, and while soccer’s governing bodies have some reforming to do, the beautiful game remains beautiful in the eyes of the fans.
- The U.S. Women aren’t going away
The World Cup has boosted the profile of the U.S. Team and it’s stars in the minds of both the American public and corporate world. Thankfully the team will remain in the limelight for the foreseeable future. To celebrate World Cup glory, U.S. Soccer is planning a 10-game victory tour starting in August and continuing through the end of the year. This will compliment the players’ participation in the NWSL. Next summer, of course, the women will be back on the global stage with the Olympics in Brazil. Women’s Olympic soccer is a high profile affair. In 2012, the U.S. teams’ gold medal match was the highest rated event of those games.