Next summer, the largest women’s sporting event in history will take place, and it’s going to be a family affair. The 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament will see 600,000 people attend 32 games in seven urban centers across the U.S. during three weeks beginning June 19. It will receive 63 hours of national TV coverage on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, and its success will rest on what is probably the world’s first national sports marketing campaign to devote over half of its resources to reaching kids.
The marketing plan is calculated, precise and unusual. About 65% of the budget will be spent on a grassroots campaign centered around local events in the venue cities. These events will be promoted through girls’ soccer clubs, camps and associations, along with the local media. The remaining marketing effort will consist of reaching the general consumer through partnerships with Time, Inc.’s Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Teen People magazines.
The grassroots component, launched in October 1997, consists of 10 to 15 events, with each attracting between 150 and 500 participants. A typical event took place in Boston, Massachusetts this fall. Girls from six local teams were invited to a ‘dads and daughters day’ to meet the U.S. national team. ‘We had interactive skills sessions, music and autograph signing,’ says Women’s World Cup (WWC) VP of marketing Robin Roylance. ‘The dads love it because, in their daughter’s eyes, they’re the hero: they bring them to this event where they’re just dying to see Mia Hamm.’
Grassroots events will be supported by a national campaign in Sports Illustrated (SI), primarily aimed at men whose daughters play soccer. By marketing the WWC as a chance for fathers and daughters to bond, Roylance hopes to reach men who might otherwise not be interested in a women’s soccer event.
Time has also committed to running full-page ads aimed directly at kids in Teen People and SI for Kids during the months before the tournament. These ads will be complemented by editorial contests and other content promoting the WWC, along with Internet promotions on the sikids.com, sportsparents.com, CNNSI.com and AOL’s Teen People Web sites.
SI for Kids publisher Cleary Simpson says the alliance with the WWC is a perfect fit. ‘It made sense for us,’ she says. ‘This is the first ever family-oriented sports event. It’s also the first time that Time, Inc. collectively has a number of titles that really fit right into the demographic target.’
The space kicked in by SI for Kids alone is worth US$88,000 and the ads will reach a U.S. readership of over seven million boys and girls ages eight to 14. In return, Time gets national category exclusivity, use of the official WWC logo, field board signs at games, displays at the tournament venues and the opportunity to participate in other promotional events, such as planned product giveaways and contests.
In the early fall before the ads were published, close to 150,000 of the 600,000 available WWC tickets had been sold, thanks largely to the grassroots promotions alone. If the ticket sales gain momentum as the consumer part of the marketing campaign kicks into full gear during 1999, the campaign may have a big impact on the amount of attention paid to kids in sports marketing campaigns of the future.