The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) will be held in France starting June 8. The month-long tournament is held every four years, and is the global marquee event for women’s soccer.
The U.S. team is favored to win the WWC, but the French, German, and English squads are also considered serious contenders. All 24 participating teams had to earn their spot in the WWC by playing in preliminary regional tournaments.
Visa has recently announced that it is making a “substantial investment” in the U.S. Women’s National Team. While the company is sponsoring both the U.S. women’s and men’s squads, it has pledged that at least half of the funds will be earmarked for the women’s side. This is significant, as typically the support from corporate and other sponsors for female athletics is dwarfed by the sponsorship dollars accorded male athletes. Visa is making a powerful statement in its commitment to equality in this area.
“Sport presents a huge opportunity for women to pursue their dreams on and off the field,” said Lynne Biggar, Visa’s chief marketing and communications officer. “Women make the vast majority of consumer purchases and start millions of small businesses a year. By making a substantial investment in women’s initiatives, including soccer, Visa is celebrating this powerful global force.”
Visa’s five-year sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation will help develop women’s soccer and support the U.S. Women’s National Team through 2023. Visa will also become the presenting sponsor of the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team U.S.-based tournament which began in 2016. England beat the U.S., Japan, and Brazil to win the 2019 contest, which was held at venues in Florida, Tennessee and Pennsylvania earlier this year. The SheBelieves movement is spearheaded by U.S. Women’s National Team players, and aims “to inspire girls and young women and encourage them to accomplish their goals and dreams, athletic or otherwise.”
If women’s athletics get short shrift compared to men’s sports, so it is with soccer, which despite its global dominance is given little attention in the U.S. “We are incredibly excited Visa is partnering with us on our overall mission to become the preeminent sport in the U.S.,” said Jay Berhalter, chief commercial officer, U.S. Soccer. “With Visa joining us in our long-term investment in women’s soccer, we will continue to increase opportunities for women players, coaches and referees at all levels. Overall, we are looking forward to Visa helping us reach our mission by increasing participation, developing world class players, coaches and referees, and increasing fan engagement.”
Visa is launching a marketing campaign to celebrate the U.S. Women’s National Team and its star players. The ads will feature Mallory Pugh, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Jessica McDonald, Abby Dahlkemper and Adrianna Franch, and will highlight these athletes’ hard work and determination as they play on a global stage.
“Women’s football is at a tipping point. This year has seen a global wave of support around women’s empowerment and the excitement is spreading with the sold-out opening and final matches for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019,” notes Visa’s Biggar. The sponsorship will include the fan-voted “Player of the Match” for each of the WWC’s 52 games. Visa also has an international ad campaign with the slogan “One Moment Can Change the Game,” focused on elevating women in sports.
Visa is connecting achievement on the soccer field with success in the business world. On the WWC tournament’s opening day, Visa will host the finals of its global competition celebrating women entrepreneurs who are making strides in Fintech and Social Impact. Twelve finalists from six regions will pitch their solutions for a chance to win the grand prize of $100,000 per challenge.
There is a strong correlation between girls and women playing sports, and professional success. Funding for girls’ and women’s athletics at the amateur level is vital, as is raising the profile of the upper echelons of women’s sports. Elite female soccer players represent powerful role models for younger athletes, fostering the growth of the game, and women assuming greater leadership roles in the larger society.