This past October, Canadian Governor General Johnston proclaimed that 2015 would be the Year of Sport in Canada! In 2015, Canada will host the World Junior Hockey Championships (Gold ✓), the 25th Canada Games, the Pan and Parapan American Games, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup (FWWC). This year’s FWWC should generate significant interest among Canadians due to the endearing performance of the Canadian Women’s National Team at the 2012 London Olympics (the team is currently ranked 9th internationally), and the international appeal of football in Canada, a country that prides itself on possessing a mosaic of cultures.
Host Cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, and Moncton
Dates: June 6 – July 5
Edition: 7th Women’s World Cup
Mascot: Shuéme, a great white owl
Draw: Seen below, as announced on December 6, 2014 in Ottawa
With the tournament quickly approaching, it seems concerning that only 2 of a projected 6 national tournament sponsors have been announced (Bell and Labatt). The FWWC represents a unique opportunity for national brands to connect with a globally recognized organization (FIFA), as well as the emerging trend of female participation as a theme in sport marketing. So why are companies shying away?
FIFA Scandals – FIFA seems to always be in the midst of defending itself from allegations. Whether it is alleged match-fixing (South Africa, 2010), or hosting rights bribery (Qatar, 2022), sponsors may be reluctant to associate with the notorious F-I-F-A.
Players Protest Artificial Turf – A group of elite female football players have filed a case with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario protesting the planned use of artificial turf during the FWWC 2015. Though the players may not win their case, the damage from a branding perspective, for a top-tier competition, may have already been done.
No T.O. – Finally, Canada’s biggest metropolitan area is not one of the 6 host cities! During the FWWC 2015, Toronto will be preparing to host the Pan and Parapan American Games (July 10-26). The Toronto Pan American Games provide competition to the FFWC 2015 from a sponsorship perspective.
When assessing potential national sponsors for FIFA 2015 it is necessary to consider the category exclusivity of existing FIFA Partners and existing Tournament National Supporters.
Having highlighted the existing sponsors and sponsor categories for the FWWC 2015, I have outlined below several potential types of sponsors that I feel would be a good fit, from a sponsorship perspective, for the FWWC 2015.
Transportation Category Sponsors – As this is a national tournament that will draw international attention, Canadian airlines like WestJet and Air Canada or Canadian railway organizations like VIA Rail and CN would be logical sponsors.
Financial Institution Category Sponsors – Canada is host to a slew of major banking institutions including TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal (BMO), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and Scotiabank, each of which is active in sport sponsorship. These banks could benefit from associating with both the Canadian pride, and elite nature of the tournament. In both the 2014 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Brazil (Itaú) and the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany (Commerzbank), a national banking institution served as a national supporter of the tournament. As well, the leading partner for the Pan Am Games 2015 is CIBC.
Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) National Sponsors – There are several companies that are recognized as major sponsors of soccer in Canada. The companies (including BMO, Canadian Tire, and Tim Hortons) currently sponsor Canadian soccer properties like the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the various MLS teams.
Sponsors Looking to Associate with Women and Sport – A final sponsor target for the FWWC 2015 could be organizations that are already associating with themes of women in sport. The branding strategy of “champions of female sport” is currently being employed by major apparel companies like Lululemon Athletica, Under Armour, and Nike Women. These companies are not viable options because Adidas is a FIFA partner. However, other brands like Scotiabank (current Canadian Women’s Hockey League key partner), or Shoppers Drug Mart (numerous female initiatives, most notably the Run for Women) may have potential interest in further associating with the women in sport movement.
With just under 6 months until kickoff, the FWWC 2015 organizing committee is under pressure to secure 4 National Supporters. With the cost of a World Cup looming this situation should be monitored by anyone who has an interest in sport sponsorship!
Note: On February 17, 2015 the FWWC announced their third national supporter, Trend Micro a global leader in security software.