How will the Lionesses’ success impact women’s football commercially?

In Summary

  • Shirt sponsorship deals can command up to £3.39m if they’re sold separately to men’s deals
  • Barclays would have paid an addition 20%-25% on their WSL title sponsorship if they were to sign it today
  • The highest-profile Lionesses have the same commercial potential as men’s player from the likes of Everton and Leicester City

The 2022/23 Barclays Women’s Super League campaign is set to be the biggest yet. The success of the Lionesses at Euro 2022 brought unprecedented attention to the women’s game in England, with the media providing new levels of coverage and the public embracing it in a way usually reserved for the men’s game.

The summer’s triumph came off the back of another season of significant growth across the sport as a whole. Attendances in particular were up, as Barcelona twice broke the women’s record, first against Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League (91,553 people watched at the Nou Camp) and then against Wolfsburg in the semis (91,648).

Not even the Euros final (87,192) could beat those figures and nor could some of the biggest men’s teams: the Premier League’s highest attendance in 21/22 was 73,564 (for Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea in April), while 75,000 supporters watched Real beat Liverpool in the men’s Champions League final at the Stade de France.

Those who aren’t attending matches are watching on TV in increased number. In June 2022, the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) revealed that viewership of the Women’s Super League had increased four-fold during 21/22, climbing from 8.8 million in 20/21 to 34 million. Even more significantly, viewers kept tuning in: 46% watched a WSL match on more than one occasion.

This success is likely to continue into the new campaign, but what kind of impact will sponsors and other commercial partners feel as the roar of the Lionesses reverberates through the English game? DataPOWA has crunched the numbers to pull out three crucial insights.

Men’s and women’s shirt sponsorship should be sold as separate assets

Currently, men’s and women’s shirt sponsorship are sold as a package, but there’s a compelling argument for separating them out after the Women’s Euros.

DataPOWA estimates that if the most influential Barclays Women’s Super League teams (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City) were to sell those assets separately, they could expect to earn additional revenue of between £0.5m and £1.5m per season.

Within three years, we expect this potential revenue to be worth between £1.3m and £3.9m, depending on the success and influence of the individual teams. 

Title sponsorship of the league should increase by 20% – 25% more

Barclays has been the title sponsor of the Women’s Super League since 2019, when it agreed a £15m partnership. In December 2021, that figure doubled, the deal extended to 2025, and the banking giant now sponsors the second tier of the women’s game – the Women’s Championship – as well.

With the Lionesses success bringing increased interest to women’s football, we estimate that Barclays can expect to see around 40% – 50% more media exposure during the coming season.

If Barclays were to negotiate the deal now, they would expect to pay between 20% – 25% more, because of this increased exposure and greater competition for the rights.

Lionesses on par with Premier League stars

The likes of Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze had broken through to mainstream success before the tournament, but after that famous Wembley win players such as Chloe Kelly, Mary Earps, Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson are now household names too.

This exposure has boosted their personal brands via increased social media followings, and made lucrative sponsorship deals for they and their teammates more likely. We estimate that the most influential BWSL-based Lionesses now have the same commercial potential as a regular starter in the men’s teams at the likes of West Ham United, Everton, Leicester City, and Newcastle United.

However, the Lionesses’ commercial value is currently largely untapped, so there is a significant opportunity for both the players and their agents, as well as brands who wish to be associated with these now-high profile personalities.

What’s next?

The Euros win took English women’s football to places it’s never been before. Like Nike, Barclays has proven its foresight by getting in on the ground floor, and it’ll be interesting to see how brands new to the game approach partnerships in a way that seems authentic. Supporting the younger Lionesses like Lauren Hemp and Ella Toone through their careers may be a way forward.

As for clubs, there’s an increasing need for them to recognise that the men’s and women’s games are separate entities with unique earning potential. Women’s sides warrant their own social media feeds and can provide significant financial benefits when considered as in their own right.

The momentum is well and truly with women’s football; the challenge now is to build on it.

To learn more about this data or find out how DataPOWA can help you understand commercial performance, get in touch with us at [email protected].