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Women’s empowerment was an obvious theme to this year’s World Cup, with brands like Qatar Airways putting out ads highlighting women’s strength and accomplishments. Adidas, Visa, and Luna Bar notably jumped in on the highly publicized convo around equal pay, with Adidas putting its money where its mouth is to pay players the same performance bonus as male peers. Visa’s new sponsorship deal with the U.S. Soccer Association mandates at least 50% of the money go towards the women’s team.
Yet Nike appeared to be the real winner of the World Cup marketing frenzy, celebrating the team’s win with "Never Stop Winning", a powerful message of equal rights and empowerment continuing its focus on the next generation of girls. In only 2 days, the campaign clocked over 5M views on the Nike Women Instagram and 4.5M views on YouTube. It’s an obvious win for a sports brand looking to grow among women, but also serves as encouraging proof that gender equality can be on the table without alienating anybody: the boys are here for it, too. Nike announced that a growing number of boys are choosing to wear the women’s national team’s soccer jerseys; in fact, the women’s jerseys are the best-selling soccer jerseys Nike has ever recorded in a single season.
Brand pressure matters, especially when these are valuable sponsors who have an eye on the market: millions more watched the women’s World Cup final than the 2018 men’s final.
FROM PRIDE TO WRATH
Pride Month may be over, but that doesn’t mean discussions around brand inclusivity are. Over 45K protesters showed up for the Queer Liberation March, which they say is intended bring attention to how corporate Pride has become. This is also the fuel behind the call for LGBTQ Wrath Month: a time of reckoning for brands who have failed to meaningfully stand up for LGBTQ rights or were a bit too quick to toss the rainbows once July 1st came around.
Case in point: people are boycotting Nivea after news broke that its advertising agency FCB decided to no longer work with the company after someone from the Nivea team reportedly said “We don’t do gay at Nivea.” Oof.
Woke-washing has consequences. If there’s not an authentic commitment to make things better for LGBTQ+ employees at a company as well as LGBTQ+ consumers, the public’s not going to stand for it. Google and Victoria’s Secret are just two of the other big-name brands finding this out the hard way.