Building brilliant brand properties: inspiration from the women’s World Cup

Post by Jon Goldstone, Managing Partner (UK/Global) based in London.

I’ve really enjoyed the women’s soccer World Cup (even though England just missed out on the final!). The quality of the football has been great and I love how the event has been a catalyst for converting slow, steady growth in women’s soccer into something more spectacular.

The event got me thinking about how to identify a hot property for your brand and activate it to grow both equity and sales.

Brilliant activation from Nike …

Based on a recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio, the women’s World Cup seems much more prominent than last year’s men’s World Cup. Games were being televised in hotel receptions and I saw dozens of young girls wearing the US team’s Nike shirt whilst I travelled.

Indeed, the women’s World Cup has been a huge success for Nike. More US women’s shirts have been sold on than any other football shirt; that’s more than the Brazil or Barcelona shirts! And Nike’s ‘Dream Further’ commercial (below) topped the charts in System 1’s analysis of all World Cup ads, with a ‘near perfect’ 4.6 star rating.

… other brands missed a trick

However, I can’t help but think that most brands have really missed a trick. UK TV viewing figures have been spectacular, with the 11.7 million viewers of England’s semi-final loss to the USA making it the most watched TV programme of the year. And yet brand activation seems quite modest. I’ve seen work from Lucozade, Boots, BT and Head & Shoulders but the activity seems like a secondary focus to their main brand-building efforts and nothing like as prominent as the interest in the games would merit.

6 top tips for brand properties

So, how could you build a brilliant brand property like Nike? Here’s my Top 6 tips:

  1. Build on an existing brand associations, to benefit from ‘fluency‘: if the linkage is simple and obvious, people will get it really quickly. When working on Hovis we invested heavily in cycling in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics. The connection to the brand’s famous ‘Boy on the Bike’ commercial was obvious and the campaign did a tremendous job of building brand health and short-term sales.
  2. Integrate the product experience. When developing Doritos as an evening snacking brand, I developed film as a long-term property, with on-pack film give-aways, cult screenings at music festivals and sponsorship of Channel 4 movies. All of this built upon the simple and important fact that a bag of Doritos and dip goes very well with a movie.
  3. Search out uncrowded spaces. Both properties that I’ve mentioned, film and cycling, were relatively uncrowded when we got involved. Levels of brand attribution and therefor return on marketing investment were very high as a result. I suspect that the ‘first mover’ brands in women’s football like Nike are experiencing something similar.
  4. Drive employee engagement. When I worked for Coca-Cola in Croatia during the 2008 men’s World Cup the level of employee engagement was off the charts. A huge amount of effort was made to engage all employees, especially those that worked for the bottler (our sales team). It was never calculated that accurately but I suspect that the sales incentive programs must have been some of the most successful ever seen.
  5. Go beyond high profile sponsorship. Building dozens of touchpoints with your target audience rather than paying for top dollar sponsorships can boost your returns. Doritos and film was a great example. We built associations at the cinema (Odeon), on-line (LoveFilm), on the high street (Blockbuster) and at high footfall events (Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds, Tea in the Park, etc.) and with mass reach TV (Channel 4), all for less than the cost of a Premier League shirt sponsorship.
  6. Stick with it. As a marketer there’s always the next flashy thing to invest in. But it’s critical that you stick with a property for a number of years to build distinctive memory structure, as we posted on here. You’re likely to get bored before most consumers have even noticed your association. By all means keep it fresh, to create what we call ‘fresh consistency’, as Carling Black Label did with their multi-year ‘Be the Coach’ campaign. But don’t be tempted to dump a great property just because you’re new to a brand or the sales guys are telling you that they need some ‘new news’.

Most of all have fun. Some of my happiest memories as a brand marketer were developing brand properties. There’s nothing like the thrill of striking a good deal and seeing your brand reaping the rewards.


Marketing Week (June 28th, 2019) Nike is the big brand winner at the women’s World Cup (July 1st, 2019) Team USA women’s World Cup jersey breaks Nike sales record