How The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Can Better Score Sponsorship Deals


In previous posts, we have discussed how women’s sports represents an opportunity for potential sponsors as undervalued assets for reaching target markets. In particular, we used a case study featuring LUNA Bar showing the value of its decision pay each United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) player the difference in salary between them and their male counterparts for participating in the World Cup.

The USWNT members seem now to be in a position to change this situation. As a recent MarketWatch post states, “The U.S. women’s team won the World Cup, and they’re about to get paid — by sponsors, anyway.” The post goes on to describe how players can cash in on winning the World Cup via “endorsement deals, speaking engagements and social-media campaigns.”

However, President of Sportsimpacts and Director of the Sports Business Program at Washington University in St. Louis Patrick Rishe explains the challenge of this thinking. He states, “While it is certainly possible that a very few select individual female soccer players could earn $5 [million] to $10 million in endorsement income (with Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe being near the top of that list right now), the reality is that [male international soccer stars] Cristiano Rinaldo ($44 million last year) and Lionel Messi ($35 million last year) have a much higher endorsement income ceiling, because there are many more consumer eyeballs on their sport than there is for the women’s game.”

Rishe articulates that challenge common to women’s sports. While it is true that the USWNT consistently draws many of the largest television audiences to watch soccer in the United States for male or female competitions, this typically only happens during the World Cup or the Olympics. It is difficult for women, even USWNT stars, to attract sponsors if they are focused solely on quantity metrics such as “consumer eyeballs,” given that the audiences are not as consistently large in different channels as they are for men’s sports.

While this gap should continue to close in the long-term, the USWNT demonstrates why sponsorship of women’s sports in the short and medium-term should not focus on quantity metrics. Instead, USWNT should be focused on fit and engagement metrics. More specifically, the USWNT has a passionate, engaged audience that is a good fit for many companies’ key consumer demographics.

We decided to examine LUNA Bar again to demonstrate how this approach can work. Below is an example of our Social Sentiment Analysis Platform (SAP) analysis within our Partnership Scoreboard analyzing Twitter activity during the World Cup for the USWNT and its three of its star players.

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We found that the USWNT and its players excels from a fit, engagement, and sentiment perspective. More specifically, the team and its players are able to target the audiences that are most valuable to LUNA Bar, create substantial lifts in engagement rates, and generate significantly positive sentiment with this conversation. In fact, the only negative sentiment created with posts featuring LUNA Bar and the USWNT or its players were fans complaining that the women’s team does not receive equal pay to the men’s team for participating in the World Cup.  

This is not to say that quantity metrics do not add value for sponsors. In fact, looking at reach is one of three primary components of our Corporate Asset Valuation Model (CAV). However, it is also only one of three components. In particular, we have found that companies are increasingly making fit and engagement metrics a higher priority in their approach to valuation. Reaching the right people with the right message at the right time and in the right channel drives the revenue and brand metrics that have significant impacts on their businesses.

The USWNT rightfully deserves new or renewed interest from current and potential sponsors. However, the USWNT should compete for sponsorship dollars in the ways that best position these players to be successful. Prioritizing fit and engagement in sponsorship conversations  is both what companies are increasingly looking for in partnerships and should maximize the players’ success in securing new deals.