Sports return with the NWSL Challenge Cup
On June 27th, the NWSL became the first domestic professional sports league to begin play in the United States since the country was shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It returned in a triumphant way on CBS with a new record television audience for the nascent league. The league will play out its 2020 season in the form of the NWSL Challenge Cup – a month-long tournament based in Sandy, UT. Along with the return of play has been the return and growth of sponsorships in women’s soccer.
Sponsor activity in women’s soccer
The most notable new sponsor inked by the NWSL is Google. Announced just before the start of the tournament, Google will be supporting the NWSL Challenge Cup in numerous ways. Firstly, Google, through its Google Meets program, will power “Virtual Cheering Sections” which will bring local fans into the action. The tech company will also bring the game to the people utilizing video content on its social media channels.
Google is joined by many other brands such as Budweiser, Verizon, Thorne, Procter & Gamble, and Secret Deodorant. The support from brands has been so strong that Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Royals, has claimed that the NWSL Challenge Cup can “pay for itself”. That investment is a welcome addition during a time of pandemic when fans and teams were initially unsure if games would even happen this year.
Before the tournament kicked off, Secret worked with NWSL players to announce to the world that the league is back. My Instagram feed was flooded with players’ take on the “Wipe It Down” TikTok trend.
There were a few other newsworthy sponsorship items happening around the league, including several jersey partnership announcements. Here’s a quick rundown:
- The Utah Royals added Soleil Energy as their jersey sponsor
- CVS Health is now the jersey sponsor of the Washington Spirit
- Midwestern grocery store Meijer is now the Chicago Red Star’s jersey partner
Major League Soccer is going to Disney World!
Starting next week, there will be two domestic professional sports leagues in action. Luckily for us, both are soccer leagues, as MLS kicks off the #MLSisBack tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Orlando and Disney’s campus specifically offer ample amounts of space and hospitality that allow leagues like MLS or the NBA to house athletes and safely operate their league for weeks at a time.
The tournament will feature three matches every day until the knockout rounds are reached. This is welcome news for brands and league broadcast partners that may have feared a year completely lost due to the pandemic. What we’re most interested in seeing is how league partners will integrate new branded content or unique broadcast technologies into the tournament itself to make up for lost time and lost sponsorship assets. The league announced teams will able to add a sponsor logo to shorts, which is one way to help alleviate some concerns for local sponsors. One thing we would love to see is MLS allowing “walk-out” music or personalized goal celebration music chosen by players – a concept the Premier League was rumored to be integrating.
In a year where fans were unsure if sports would even return, it’s a welcomed addition to see both NWSL and MLS return to play. We’re excited to see how brands work with both leagues to utilize this opportunity to market themselves in new and unique ways.