I’m a soccer fan – more specifically, a U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) fan. So you can imagine, as the concluding whistle blew at the World Cup finals this summer and the USWNT paraded around the field in Lyon, France, I was watching from my home in Charlotte with tears of joy in my eyes. The beloved team I have ardently followed for the last six years won the greatest match in its sport.
With the lingering excitement from the USA win, I can’t help but think about how these soccer icons employed an unofficial – yet effective – PR strategy during the World Cup to support their own goal of securing equal pay in the industry. Through establishing relationships, understanding their audience and leveraging the tools and circumstances at hand, these pro-athletes fostered support and acceptance for equal pay activism.
Here’s how the USWNT made an impact in the PR game.
Social Media: Every day of the World Cup, the players were extremely active on social media. These interactions garnered excitement and attention, encouraged fellow players on match day and eventually gained worldwide engagement. Seeing the team not only post consistently but also intentionally interact with each other on social media platforms helped the nation to adore the friendships and camaraderie on the team. Bolstered by this bond with its fans, the USWNT effortlessly collected supporters to rally behind it on and off the field, even yielding “equal pay” chants after securing the final victory.
The Power of Relationships: Due to the attention drawn to the wage conversation during the World Cup, USWNT sponsors willingly responded to the noise. Secret Deodorant, LUNA Nutrition Bars and other team sponsors donated money in an effort to help close the wage gap. Because of the positive relationships cultivated by the team, the sponsors made a statement of support, providing the team greater exposure, agency and acceptance.
Press Coverage: The women knew the amount of news coverage they would get surrounding a World Cup win, so they took advantage of the opportunity. For example, the players weaved the topic of wage equality into post-match and post-win interviews. Players Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Morgan Brian and other notables even sat down with then-CBS News Correspondent Norah O’Donnell to discuss their next steps in spurring the end to wage inequality in their sport.
With a win, the team more powerfully leveraged its position in the media’s presence to earn circulation of its equal pay message. The country that so faithfully supports the team’s on-the-field effort has now rallied behind its message of equality.
I love soccer and PR. Check out my introduction blog to learn a little more about me!