How UEFA plans to build a ‘social movement’ to attract more advertisers to women’s football

The new ‘Together #WePlayStrong’ campaign has a ‘This Girl Can’ vibe as the European football body aims to increase the popularity of women’s football.

UEFA is looking to ‘transform’ the brand image of women’s football across Europe among sports fans and brands alike as it launches its first European campaign for the game.

The campaign, ‘Together #WePlayStrong’, encourages more teenage girls to take up football from a young age. Created by FCB Inferno and featuring an upbeat soundtrack, the main 90-second ad shows the journey of girls from playing in the streets to major stadiums. It will be broadcast during the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus on 3 June, which attracts more than 160m viewers.

There will also be a social media campaign throughout the year, with 55 national European football associations providing support. Each will provide around five social media influencers, which could include up-and-coming female players or more established men’s players such as Chelsea and Belgium’s Eden Hazard.

The campaign is based on internal research from UEFA, which claims 80% of teenage girls exhibit more confident behaviour when playing football. And according to Peter Willems, head of marketing activities & sponsorship at UEFA, it is the body’s biggest ever focus on women’s football across Europe.

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Willems tells Marketing Week: “Maybe we didn’t go hard enough on pushing the women’s game in the past, but now all the puzzle pieces have come together and we’re ready to really invest. The support is coming from the very top of UEFA.”

Getting brands behind the push will be key, but when asked whether the campaign will struggle to attract advertisers, with many still wedded to the men’s game, Willems says he hopes things will be different this time around. Admitting that agency FCB Inferno had been inspired by Sport England’s inclusive ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, he says the goal is to create a “social movement”.

“Before we sold a women’s football advertising package alongside the men’s, but now for the first time we’re making them separate,” he explains. “The message we’re telling brands is that this isn’t just about eyeballs and engagement, but embracing and creating a social movement. That if you join up now then maybe in three or five years time you’ll be very happy that you were one of the first. If football feels overcrowded then the women’s game is also a unique opportunity to really be seen.”

The overarching goal is to increase participation, with the FA, for example, hoping to double female football participation in the UK. However, Willems has even loftier ambitions.

He concludes: “Sure, this could fail, but in seven years time I’d like the women’s UEFA Champions League final to have as much buzz and sponsors as the men’s equivalent. We want to build long term partnerships with brands and there’s already lots of interest.”