The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup will mark another milestone in the expanding popularity of women’s soccer (football). Kicking off Feb. 17, 2024, with the final match set for March 10 on Paramount+ in English language, the competition promises to serve as 2024’s first must-attend gathering for the women’s soccer community, and a new opportunity for brands to invest in the sport’s growing popularity.
“It will be a tournament featuring the best of the best: 25 matches with 12 elite teams and global stars from our region, all played in the U.S.,” said Heidi Pellerano, chief commercial officer for Concacaf, the confederation that serves as the governing body of the sport for the countries and territories in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The tournament also will be the capstone to the bold and comprehensive Concacaf W strategy launched by the confederation in 2019: aimed to enhance all facets of women’s soccer throughout Concacaf’s region, and by extension the fans, partners and sponsors that support it.
Passionate fans, avid consumers
It’s no secret that women’s soccer is a hot property among brands, and that its fans are invested and passionate. Endeavor Analytics found that 76% of women’s sports fans notice brands while watching those events, according to the firm’s 2022 “Women + Sports” research. Brands involved with the U.S. women’s national team saw increases of more than 20 percentage points in positive sentiments among fans.
Research also consistently shows that North American soccer fans are young, diverse and digitally savvy.
“Everybody is watching for a different reason,” Pellerano said. “We have parents who may have played soccer and bring their daughters, and sons, because they want them to have strong role models. We have groups of young millennials who attend with friends. Then there are avid football fans who are there because it’s just really good football. It’s also a very welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone feels part of this bigger community; that’s what makes women’s sports and women’s football so special.”
Leading brands including Toyota, Modelo, Valvoline and Qatar Airways have already signed on as sponsors for the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup.
Paramount Global and its CBS Sports division have also made a significant investment in women’s soccer. CBS Sports and Paramount+, the streaming home of CBS Sports, carry National Women’s Soccer League and Barclays Women’s Super League matches, while their free, 24/7 soccer channel CBS Sports Golazo Network offers the latest news and highlights from women’s soccer on its shows “Morning Footy,” “Box 2 Box” and “Attacking Third,” which is exclusively dedicated to the women’s game. The tournament’s 25 matches will be carried on Paramount+, with select matches on CBS Sports Golazo Network and CBS Sports Network, and additional news and commentary available online and on the @AttackingThird social media channels.
“Women’s soccer is in a pattern of rapid growth here and all over the world,” said Dan Weinberg, CBS Sports’ executive VP of programming. “You see a fan base that is attracting a young and diverse demo. But maybe the most important thing is the product on the pitch itself, which is as exciting and dynamic as it’s ever been. It’s a powerful recipe for growth.“
Sports access for all
Over the past four years, the Concacaf W strategy has dramatically increased the number of competitive matches the women’s national teams are playing. It also entails using the Gold Cup name in reference to the iconic 32-year-old Concacaf men’s tournament, which already attracts an abundance of brand sponsors and partners.
But the strategy has also focused on building the women’s game at every level and in every country. Part of the mission of Concacaf W is to remove roadblocks for girls and women who are interested in soccer as players, coaches, referees and broadcasting and administrative executives. That has meant strengthening the infrastructure for women’s soccer throughout the region.
The Always Soñando (“Always Dreaming”) Concacaf W Broadcast Academy, announced in June 2023 and sponsored by Procter & Gamble’s Always brand of period care products, is aimed at increasing the number of women behind the camera on soccer broadcasts. Participants are spending nine months training in camera work, production and direction, a process that will culminate in working on the Concacaf W Gold Cup broadcasts in February and March 2024.
P&G said research has shown that less than 20% of all jobs behind the camera in soccer broadcasting, such as camera operators, directors and producers, are held by women, and even fewer by women who are Hispanic or from other underrepresented groups.
“We know that soccer is a huge passion for many young women, both to play and to watch, and we are proud to support steps toward greater gender equality in the industry,” said Laura Vicentini, VP for global fem care innovations at P&G. “With this partnership, we are looking forward to seeing more Hispanic and Latina women at the broadcast of the Concacaf W Gold Cup Tournament in February and March as we continue to empower their confidence in achieving their dreams.”
The strategy has already started to reap benefits. A record number of Concacaf women’s teams—six—qualified for the 2023 World Cup in Australia & New Zealand. The confederation says the number of licensed female coaches in the region is up 71%, while the number of female referees has increased more than 50%, to 160.
Pellerano said the Paramount/CBS Sports and P&G levels of involvement, along with the brands already signed on, is what she’s hoping for from other brand partners.
“I’m not interested in partners who come to us because they simply want to ‘check the box,’” she said. “Because for all of us, it’s not just about what happens on the pitch. It’s all about women in football and the long-term effects it will have on the sport and society at large.”