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What makes this FIFA Women’s World Cup feel so different?

07TH JUNE 2019

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With the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicking off on Friday 7th June at Parc des Princes in Paris, there’s a palpable difference in how this event feels compared to the Women’s World Cups before it.

But why? What’s at the heart of this?

We asked some of the team at ENGINE Sport for their thoughts...

BETTER CREATIVE, BIGGER BUZZ (Lisa Parfitt, Managing Director)

For me, this FWWC feels different because it’s finally starting to have the build-up it deserves. Over the past few years, a more progressive approach to TV pundit selection has helped build the equity of women in the game, and now, with the Women’s World Cup around the corner, we’ve seen some excellent squad announcements, the BBC’s ‘England's World Cup Lionesses' documentary, their equally punchy Ms Banks-led coverage trail and endemic football brands like Lucozade have put their money where their mouth is.

This time, it’s not about reacting to the event later, it’s about being ready for it now. It’s not an ‘if they win’ scenario, it’s a ‘when they play’ one, which is hugely different; it’s infinitely more motivating and a critical in normalising the way in which sports fans treat this pinnacle moment for the elite game. This is how the men’s game picks up the Big Eventers at World Cup time; and it’s the same approach the Olympics take for the same non-core audience (I mean, how many people get suddenly glued to Swimming, Gymnastics or Rowing after little previous interest?). It’s also how we’ll create a lasting impact and ensure women’s football becomes just football.

Long live the Lionesses.

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE PREFIX ANYMORE… (Rob Jennings, Strategist)

The 2019 Women’s World Cup in France is different for a very simple reason: it’s being treated like it’s an international football tournament.

For as long as I can remember, being a fan of football has not meant being a fan of the game in all its forms: it has meant following Men’s football. Somewhere along the line we’ve managed to divorce the Women’s game from the Men’s in such a profound way that the gender prefix has become the defining characteristic of the sport, rather than the game itself. 

To be a fan of Men’s football and not Women’s is to suggest that the two are different sports entirely, a sadly all too commonly held view that, thanks to the unprecedented media coverage, fanfare and brand interest around this tournament, is beginning to fade.

And so, really, it’s the familiarity of this World Cup that will make it feel so different. From back-page headlines, to shirts on the tube and World Cup adverts on the TV... This is the real, everyday face of progress. 

Here’s to football finally coming home.

IT'S HAD BIG-NAME SUPPORT (Ella Pegg, Junior Account Executive)

The Women’s World Cup this summer feels different to previous competitions because of the increased level of acceptance of women participating in sports which are traditionally perceived to be for men – like football.

There’s been a notable increase in awareness for women’s sport and a lot of this has been driven by major brands – contributing significantly towards increased presence in media and in the public conscious. Major sponsorship deals have heightened visibility and significantly, they are deals which traditionally would be associated with the men’s game.  The support of media and brands has helped more people realise that women’s football is big, reputable and worth watching – and you can see both excitement and enthusiasm growing in the run up to the start of the tournament.

IT’S THE NEW NORMAL FOR MY KIDS (Josh Robinson, Creative Director)

I’m looking forward to this Women’s World Cup because it’s the first World Cup my two kids will watch, with an attention span that will allow them to actually take some of it in.

I like that they will experience it without any deeply ingrained gender perception. They both play football at weekly training sessions and in the garden, with and against each other. They don’t watch it on TV or have an allegiance to any particular club team. They have never supported England before at anything. They enjoy the game of football at a very basic level and now they will both get to see women playing it in big stadia, with big crowds, on TV, a lot. I like that this will reinforce their subconscious perception of football as a great game, without any other gender, race or other social or political narrative around it. I like that for my son, women playing football will continue to be normal and that my daughter will see women being physical, competitive, despairing, elated, passionate and supported. I’m glad my kids are not cognisant of advertising as so many ads around women’s football and women’s sport in general build a narrative around the gender gap and women’s plight. I’m not sure them being exposed to this is as helpful as them being exposed to women’s football and the culture that lives around it as simply the norm.

NOWHERE IS OFF LIMITS ANYMORE (James Master, Senior Strategist)

I walked into a Liverpool pub toilet the other weekend, in the midst of Champions League madness. Right in my eyeline was an advertisement for FIFA Women’s World Cup games that the venue will be showing over the summer. These screenings weren’t nestled amongst (and therefore diluted by) other events, but the tournament had a dedicated poster of its own, with a wide-ranging assortment of tasty Group Stage match-ups.

What makes this FIFA Women’s World Cup feel so different? It’s because women’s football has been gaining more and more momentum since 2015. It’s because women’s football is talked and tweeted about more than ever before. But I think, most importantly, it is because the tournament is taking women’s football to hard-to-reach places. From the hearts of aspirational young women to the beer-soaked carpets of your local boozer.

FRONT AND CENTRE EMOTION (Jen Oliver, Senior Creative)

Walking past Nike Town in Oxford Circus this week, their Women’s World Cup campaign adorns every window, 'Don’t change your dream. Change your world.’, it fired me up, and I don’t even play football. This is exactly why this year’s competition feels different and is so important. It’s about driving change, celebrating diversity and promoting equality beyond the game. Hopefully, by the next Women’s World Cup we can just talk about the football. 

A SIGN OF THE TIMES (Sam Ruffe, Senior Account Manager)

A lot has changed since the 6th June 2015, when a 92nd-minute penalty edged hosts Canada past China in the opening game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In the four years since that moment we have seen a seismic and evidently positive shift in women’s equality issues, both on and off the field of play. Global movements like #MeToo solidified the dialog in mainstream media – while closer to home initiatives such as #WhatIf utilised the wider momentum to enact change on a sporting level.

Brands have obviously played their part too. Household names such as Boots, Head & Shoulders and Lucozade have clearly articulated the value they see in the women’s game by investing significant budget into their respective marketing campaigns.

What all this means is that for the first time in history, the women’s game - and by default its flagship tournament - has a standing it deserves in both the public eye and the consciousnesses of sporting decision-makers. While there is clearly still work to be done, and the fight for women’s parity shouldn’t end here, we can all take satisfaction knowing that the positive societal steps made since the last World Cup have paved the way for this year’s tournament to be a roaring success.

IT FEELS LIKE A WORLD CUP (Matt Fletcher-Jones, Director of Communications)

If you were stood in a pub, beer garden or fan park last summer getting showered with beer while England marched to the semi-final, why miss out on the chance to do so again? And this time they might even win it. It’s the world’s biggest sport’s biggest moment, and with blanket TV coverage, big-money sponsors, wallcharts, sticker books and sweepstake kits, it feels like we’re going to experience the women’s World Cup in exactly the same way as we did Russia 2018.

On June 15th last year I saw Iran beat Morocco with a 95th minute own goal. It was an awful match, but I watched every second. On June 15th this year, I’ll watch Canada v New Zealand. Because it’s the World Cup.

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ENGINE Sport