The busy summer of sport for women's national teams in football, cricket and rugby union represents, for some, a watershed moment in the development of women's sport, not least because of the growing support of major sponsor brands.
Below, Joanna Gomer, senior consultant for partnerships at supermarket brand Lidl and Yvonne Jacobi, chief operating officer for the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics, the global investment analytics division of risk management company Aon, explain the objectives and results of their support for the England women’s football team and the Women’s Rugby World Cup, respectively
What are your brand’s objectives in regards to sponsorship in women’s sport?
Joanna Gomer: While Lidl is the Official Supermarket of the England men’s football team, our key focus is on grassroots football, and increasing female participation here. As Lead Partner of the children’s football coaching scheme FA Lidl Skills there has been a spotlight on increasing girls’ participation at the foundation level of coaching to help both develop a strong base for the future and generally increase enthusiasm and enjoyment of the game.
Our overarching aim is to support families live healthy and active lifestyles. Whilst not all parents are football fans, they can enjoy the game through their children, and therefore play an important part in encouraging both boys and girls to play. We have also launched our ‘Fuelling Footballers’ campaign, where we worked alongside the England Head Chef and the England nutrition team to develop recipes for easy-to-make meals, all for under £1 per portion. This initiative will support parents in feeding their children healthy dinners, designed to refuel after football practice.
Yvonne Jacobi: Our overarching aim as a firm is to empower the economic and human potential of those we work with and those who we employ. The Ireland Women’s Rugby Team and the Women’s Rugby World Cup were a natural fit for our sponsorship portfolio. Our business is proud to associate with celebrating diversity, a key value Aon holds dear, and a high-performing team who are truly on their journey to greatness in a fast-growing sport. Rugby is a global, results-driven sport that espouses Aon’s culture of fostering, nurturing and rewarding talent.
The tournament partnership with Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 is a perfect match for us. The partnership reflects our global support for women in leadership that is embedded in our culture. Through this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup we wish to amplify Aon’s profile in this space, building on our existing Ireland Women’s Team sponsorship, and enhance our local activities. Supporting an inspirational women’s group like the Irish Rugby team, and following that through with support of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017, is a statement of who we are as a firm.
What results have you seen from the sponsorship so far?
Joanna Gomer: Girls participation has increased by 91 per cent in our FA Lidl Skills programme since we began the partnership. We’ve been delighted with the impact our focus on girls in football has had. We’ve ensured communications are all-encompassing rather than focused on just boys, highlighted female role models in the sport such as Faye White, Kelly Smith and female football freestyler Liv Cooke, offered free football coaching sessions to all Lidl customers, and provided girls only sessions alongside mixed.
— Lidl UK (@LidlUK) July 13, 2017
Yvonne Jacobi: Our sponsorships have seen tremendous support from our leadership, clients and 50,000 colleagues around the world. Locally we have cultivated a strong bond with the Irish players, backroom staff and IRFU since we came on board as the team sponsor in 2014. Players have visited us many times and spoke to us about managing and overcoming challenges they face in their lives, and their tremendous drive to succeed, at events we organise for colleagues and clients. These events are always very special to us and make us proud of our association with these inspiring role models.
Our partnerships have also been incredibly successful in terms of client engagement. Clients have embraced the partnerships and many have been converted to fans of the sport. We have seen a keen interest to support the teams on match days; we have notable spikes in our related online content and social media for both the Ireland Women’s Rugby Team and Women’s Rugby World Cup. The Aon team in Australia recently followed suit and are now proud sponsors of their local 7s women team.
How has the sponsorship been received among your key consumers?
Joanna Gomer: There were numerous entries to our ‘Ultimate Football Parent’ day at St George’s Park where a group of parents, predominately mums undertook a training session for Level 1 FA Coaches – many who had never played before. It was great to see that some took up the opportunity to develop this and accepted our offer to support them to completion of their Level One FA Coaching Badge. This event caught the interest of the media with Sky Sportswomen, ITV and even Mother and Baby magazine covering the event and speaking to the mums.
The partnership’s major presence in-store has also seen tangible results in terms of awareness, entries into football related competitions such as Scratch of the Day, and the chance to win player escort places, have been strong internal key-performance indicators.
Yvonne Jacobi: Part of our role as team and tournament partners is to be ambassadors to the sport and represent the values we share on and off the pitch. We take our clients on the journey with us, and they have increasingly shown passion and enthusiasm for women’s rugby in the past years through better understanding of the sport and interaction with players and back room staff at events we hold for them.
On WRWC match days, our clients value the exclusive experiences we can offer to them in our capacity as tournament partners, such as backstage tours and attendance at team training sessions ahead of the tournament. Having the tournament in Dublin and Belfast has presented us with many opportunities to mobilise our clients and colleagues alike, and we have truly seized the chance to do so.
Our clients have also been mobilised through the Aon ‘Journey to Greatness’ thought leadership series centred around the topics of risk and health, where we merged angles of our sponsorships and global expertise. HR managers listened to players and Ireland Head Coach Tom Tierney discuss how wellness leads to high performance in the workplace. There are direct links between what we do as a company and rugby in terms of risk, health and how data and analytics now influence the game. We have celebrated those links, and connected with our clients in the process in many ways.
— Aon Ireland (@AonIreland) June 2, 2017