PepsiCo join Visa as UEFA Women’s Football sponsors

PepsiCo signs a five year deal to sponsor Women’s Champions League and Women’s Euro competitions.

Pepsi found a place at the advertising boards for the 2020 UEFA Women’s Champions League final. PepsiCo extended their association with UEFA into the women’s game.

Food and beverage giant PepsiCo paid an undisclosed fee to become UEFA’s main sponsor for women football until 2025. The deal was announced ahead of the Women’s Champions League final between Lyon and Wolfsburg on 30th August, 2020.

UEFA’s onboarding of an identifiable brand in PepsiCo comes as a major fillip to the women’s game. It looked unpromising only until a few months back.

The game risked heading towards an existential crisis, when all football was stopped due to the coronavirus.

Six months on from the lockdown – there are more reasons to be cheerful than sombre.

The Bundesliga Frauen returned in May followed by the NWSL in the United States, which started in June before the MLS. The Women’s Champions League returned in August to increased TV viewing as Lyon bagged their 5th successive title.

The beginning of the new domestic season couldn’t have been more exciting. The best players in the world are heading to Europe – with England their preferred destination. 

USWNT World Cup winners Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle and Christen Press all joined the WSL. Former UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Lucy Bronze came back to England and Pernille Harder was signed for a women’s record fee.

The new season of the Women’s Champions League will only begin in October. When it does, a cola giant will welcome the teams with a fresh business avenue. 

A Partnership Strengthened

As per the agreement, Pepsi will also sponsor the UEFA Women’s Euro, other UEFA women’s football tournaments as well as the Together #WePlayStrong program. The governing body’s initiative aims to encourage more girls to play football.

PepsiCo confirmed their sponsorship for the UEFA Women’s Euros and UEFA Women’s Champions League.

“The popularity of and interest in women’s football is increasing with every year. This is why we are delighted to have such a trusted partner as PepsiCo join us on this exciting journey,” said Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA’s marketing director.

“Over the last five years, PepsiCo has been an innovative and influential partner of the UEFA Champions League. We are looking to draw on this energy and experience in order to take the women’s game to new heights.”

“PepsiCo is proud to unify and strengthen our global partnership with UEFA to now include UEFA Women’s football,” said Ram Krishnan, PepsiCo’s global chief commercial officer.

“This is an energising moment in the evolution of the sport – and for our business around the world. We look forward to helping accelerate the vibrant women’s game and are committed to the future of women’s football,” he said.

An identifiable tie-up 

PepsiCo is a conspicuous brand with products such as Pepsi, Lays, Doritos, Gatorade as well as Quaker Oats and Tropicana under its portfolio in India.

You can see where PepsiCo is coming from. Consolidating their partnership with UEFA was one thing. Shaping women leaders is what PepsiCo is historically known to do. Indra Nooyi was CEO of PepsiCo global for 13 years and held a number of senior roles before that.

Distinctive identity

Adam Warner, the Senior Marketing Director for PepsiCo UK spoke to Amee Ruszkai about unity being pervasive in a women’s team.

“I think people are recognising its distinct identity. Women’s football is carving out its own identity, one that’s very exciting and has commonalities to the men’s game. It’s also got key elements of differentiation versus the men’s game.

“We’re very committed to coming in and playing a role in helping to grow it further.”

Warner emphasized on the propensity of women players to put the team’s need ahead of personal glory.

“As you get closer to women’s football, you really recognise that it has some really distinctive elements to it. It’s got an amazing energy to it, it’s got amazing community spirit to it, amazing cohesiveness to it.”  

Visa [logo in the background] will sponsor UEFA Women’s tournaments until 2025. They’re the governing body’s biggest partners.

The scalability factor

PepsiCo’s foray into the women’s game is an apt indication of the upward trajectory it is heading in. They’re following in on the heels of Visa, who signed a seven-year deal with UEFA with a commitment to be changemakers in women’s football.

Matches had started attracting crowds in Europe before Covid-19. TV viewership is more than ever before and there’s been an influx of the best talent at European teams. Warner acknowledges the tremendous scope for business that lies in store for the FMCG giant.

“I think it’s clearly got scale to it. Arguably, it’s had scale to it for a while. But there’s clearly been a realisation of that scale over the past couple of years,” he said.

“We talk about the Women’s World Cup in France in 2019, but that scale was building well ahead of then. You only have to look at early 2019, the attendance records being broken throughout western Europe. Fans are going to the stadiums to watch these games.”

International Gateway

A not-so-ardent follower would tend to begin their ‘fan journey’ by tuning in to World Cups or European Championships. The hype generated by tournaments of such magnitude pave an entry point into the women’s game.

The Euros in England have been pushed back from 2021 to 2022. That should give PepsiCo enough time to build upon a strategy which engages an audience while remaining relevant.

“That provides quite a key anchor point for us, to think about in 18 months’ time, nearly two years’ time, to build towards that. I think that could be a big opportunity for the women’s game, and a big opportunity for us to really leave a mark.

“There’s undoubtedly a benefit of a bit more time building towards 2022,” he sums up.

Brands are still learning about women’s football – their ever-expanding followers, sponsorship avenues and the socio-cultural influence that these athletes leave behind.

Until brands gamble on the unrealised value women’s football offers, PepsiCo and Visa can pride themselves in being early movers.  

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