Over the past few weeks, the soccer industry has seen a number of great developments in women’s soccer. From media coverage expansion between the NWSL and ESPN to growth in the nascent Women’s ICC tournament, let’s review.
ESPN expands coverage of NWSL
Weeks after seeing the NWSL sign a deal with ESPN for the remainder of season, the two have expanded their partnership. Currently, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS are showing one game per week through the remainder of the season to a U.S. audience. Now, ESPN will use its extensive global reach to bring top professional women’s soccer to fans around the globe. Thanks to an exclusive agreement for worldwide rights,ESPN is now providing international coverage to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia.
NWSL games will be featured on ESPN Player. The platform is a live and on-demand streaming service for subscribers in the aforementioned countries via PC/Mac, iPad, and iOS and Android Mobile devices. In total, ESPN Player reaches an audience base in more than 40 countries. For the NWSL, this partnership extension represents an additional opportunity to showcase the league’s global stars to a global audience.
Women’s ICC sees growth in second year
The second edition of Relevent Sports’ Women’s International Cup was recently hosted by the North Carolina Courage. This year, the Courage were joined by three European domestic league champions: Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, and Olympique Lyonnais. Different from last year, the Women’s ICC was played in a smaller venue which helped create a more exciting environment. All of the tournament games were held at WakeMed Soccer Park and the final between the Courage and Lyon was attended by over 8,200 fans.
In 2018, only the final was shown on cable or on streaming services. New this year, the semi-finals and third-place game were all shown on ESPN+, as well as the final shown on ESPN2. If the Women’s ICC expands to a field of eight teams with two separate brackets – as Relevent hopes – expect to see more games broadcast on television in future years.
Commercial revenues from sponsors also increased. The biggest brand contribution came from Budweiser who, earlier this summer, signed on to be the presenting sponsor of the event. Additional sponsors of the tournament included Ally, LaLiga, Herbalife, Nike and Essentia Water.
Another area of growth for the 2019 tournament was an increased attention on content through influencers like Melissa Ortiz who were on-the-ground and doing a variety of activities with players from all teams.
GESM Women’s Soccer Study
While we’re on the subject of women’s soccer, I wanted to quickly plug the upcoming release of our agency’s next in-depth study. As you may remember, the focus of our study is on female soccer fandom in the U.S. Learn more about the report here.
Expect more news on our release in September.