Media wasn’t just part of Ally’s “Watch the Game, Change the Game” National Women’s Soccer League effort, it was the centerpiece of the campaign. Since women’s sports accounts for less than 10% of total sports coverage, we needed to find a way to not only increase coverage but to make sure it was properly promoted. We didn’t just buy ads or ink a sponsorship deal: We found a primetime slot for the championship game for the first time in the history of the league.
We sought to provoke systemic re-evaluation of the value of women’s sports. This would allow us to reach a passionate fan base while also reaching a broader audience through earned media — and showing Ally to be a leader in making actual long-term change in women’s sports.
Ally, a quintessential challenger brand with a history of giving customers the tools to bring big dreams to life, saw an opportunity to invest in women’s soccer and inspire girls and women to believe they can become athletes. We would commit to equal spending in media across women’s and men’s sports programming over the next five years. This was a specific, measurable and actionable commitment that epitomized the idea of “deeds over words.”
To create meaningful change at scale requires buy-in from across the industry. On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Ally turned this pledge into action by launching a national advocacy campaign called “Watch the Game, Change the Game.”
Sponsoring the National Women’s Soccer League and buying impressions wasn’t going to be enough. League games were aired at times that didn’t enable a following.
We needed to change the game, enable opportunities for people to be part of it, and give the league the prestige it deserved. To put the words “Watch the Game, Change the Game” into deeds, we would partner with the National Women’s Soccer League and CBS Sports to move the NWSL Championship game to prime time for the first time in history.
We sought to provoke systemic re-evaluation of the value of women’s sports. Thus the 2022 Ally Financial NWSL Championship was born.
This would allow us to reach a passionate fan base while also reaching a broader audience through earned media — and showing Ally to be a leader in making actual long-term change in women’s sports.
Collaborating with NWSL and CBS, we brought the game to primetime on CBS and streaming service Paramount+ for the first time ever. For international viewers we partnered with Twitch to stream the game live. This involved major adjustments to marketing and communication plans, and myriad on-the-ground challenges associated with moving the match from noon to 8 p.m.
Our “Primetime-ification” efforts weren’t limited to broadcast. We partnered with female-owned sports media start-up Just Women’s Sports to create a live pre-game show and other programming for fans. We distributed 5,000+ “Watch to Change” scarves and promoted our social CTA via influencers throughout the NWSL ecosystem. We expanded our “Player Allies” program, in which we covered travel costs for player family members and league staff to attend the Championship game. And in the spirit of “doing it right” – we announced a multi-year partnership renewal with NWSL live on-air during the match.
The NWSL Championship was the most-watched game in league history with 1 million viewers, representing +71% year-over-year increase. The campaign generated ~65M consumer impressions and over $7.5M in earned media coverage.
Ally is now featured as a top five brand in women’s sports by SponsorUnited, in the company of major players Nike, Gatorade and Adidas.
As for brand impact, we’ve seen a 13%-27% lift across key preference and likeability metrics. The Ally brand achieved a 55% awareness among female sports fans and an all-time high favorability (85%) amongst female sports fans. It also achieved a 50% increase in awareness among women in general.
Not only did the campaign generate record-breaking viewership, it made waves in the market and others joined the cause. Turner Sports, for example, just closed an 8-year deal with U.S. Women’s National Team to transmit matches.