Tom Rischbieth, Football Australia’s commercial general manager, and Peter Filopoulos, FA’s head of marketing, know they have got a guaranteed winner in the Matildas with stars such as Sam Kerr, Steph Catley and their teammates, and the Matildas’ revenue-generating abilities have increased dramatically in recent seasons as they play to ever-growing numbers whenever they are in action at home.
But both are aware of the commercial reality that Adair points out and know that even with the World Cup being hosted here in 2023, the Matildas will be the commercial icing on the cake.
They believe a broad commercial and marketing strategy which offers potential backers a “whole of game” partnership from grassroots to the professional level, along with a 50-50 gender split in participation, will be the factors that give soccer an edge in the future.
Filopoulos points to recent deals with the likes of Cadbury and pharmaceutical company Priceline, which has inked a three-year agreement to back youth soccer, the Matildas and the W-League, Australia’s elite women’s soccer competition.
“The participation base is very diverse, multicultural and inclusive, and it taps into every corner and background in this country. It also has a global reach,” Filopoulos says.
“The gender balance and inclusivity will be appealing to corporations because they are pivoting their sponsorship strategies post COVID-19.”
Adds Rischbieth: “The traditional market is shifting. We are seeing where brands want to spend their money being more invested into purpose and values-based investments.
“Brands are not necessarily looking for big media exposure, big shiny sponsorships where they slap their logo everywhere and shout about it from the rooftops.
”The brands we are talking to want to know how to get involved in community programs … we are lucky that at a time when marketing trends are heading towards investing in women’s properties and community areas, that is a major focus for us because of our huge reach across the football pyramid from the national teams to the grassroots space.
“Women’s football across this country is seen as so strong, valuable and interesting that it stands by itself as a really strong proposition for brands to invest in alongside other tier one sports.
“We have junior pathway programs, a professional league, an e-sports league. We have a lot of tools in our kit to provide to different partners with different requirements.”
Con Stavros, an associate professor in marketing from RMIT, says that if FA is to capitalise on its “historic” opportunity with the Matildas they must have a long-term plan and enter into a marriage with potential backers.
“There has to be narrative that sponsors can fix upon, can see a pathway and get behind,” Stavros says.
“The game has always been sold as hope, with emphasis on its participants and its world-wide appeal.
“It’s very much now about a strategic alliance and partnership. I think the whole-of-game idea is an attractive proposition for a sponsor, who can take ownership of the sport, from grassroots to elite level. It amplifies their investment in the process.
“I do think the gender message is important. The Women’s World Cup will be really important if they can harness the energy appropriately.
“What FA really needs is a strong partner [corporate or media] that can help with the marketing message. Often it’s those major brands that have the marketing savvy, the dollars and the ability to build the game … look at what Channel Seven has done for the AFL.”
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing