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Sky Sports ramps up spend for its ‘biggest ever’ Women’s Super League campaign

Sky Sports is kicking off the 2023/24 Barclay’s Women’s Super League season with ‘Keep Up’, a campaign combining leading WSL footballers and grime artists, as the broadcaster looks to build on the forward momentum building around women’s football.

Keep Up (a remix of Stormzy’s single ‘Shut Up’) features rapper Nadia Rose and star WSL players, including Beth Mead, Demi Stokes and Jen Beattie. It is Sky Sports’ “biggest ever” investment behind the WSL, as well as its first campaign with McCann.

It comes a few months after Sky Sports launched it’s main campaign for the sporting season ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ which is being shared and repackaged across all its sports.

Why Sky Sports is widening the net for its start of season campaignBut for the WSL, Sky Sports’ marketing director Dave Stratton decided to branch out beyond the core campaign. “We made a conscious choice on the WSL campaign to do something a bit different,” he tells Marketing Week, noting the broadcaster is aiming itself at a “very distinctive target market” and wanted the campaign to stand out separately.

That target market is women under-35, according to Stratton who cites that last season’s viewership for the league was 36% female – meaning, more men than women were engaging with it. While this goes against the assumption that women’s sport is only enjoyed by women, it does indicate a large group of people to convert to being followers of the women’s game.

We believe that if you really make women’s sport visible, then viewership will follow. We’ve proven that so far.

Dave Stratton, Sky Sports

However, the campaign is also aimed at appealing to a broad demographic too, says Stratton, who adds that when the spot was pre-tested, it was the strongest performer Sky Sports had seen among its target audience. “That gave us real confidence going into it,” he says.

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“Our hope for this campaign is that is drives viewership for the WSL,” he adds. “We believe that if you really make women’s sport visible, then viewership will follow. We’ve proven that so far.”

The task at hand then is converting those who watched and enjoyed big tournaments like the recent Women’s World Cup and last year’s Euros into dedicated league fans, and Stratton is “optimistic” this can happen.

“That’s the aim, and then we will take stock to see how it performs and evolve that into our 2024 plans.”

Taking the lead

Arsenal and England footballer Beth Mead
Arsenal and England footballer Beth Mead appears in the spot

Stratton took over as marketing director for Sky Sports in April this year, after a two year stint leading marketing for Sky’s broadband business. In his first two big campaigns for the broadcaster, Keep Up and The Greatest Show on Earth, the marketing team is pushing the parameters of creativity and the type of marketing Sky traditionally does, having previously had a reputation for not stretching creative boundaries.

“We’re very clear strategically about where we want to go with Sky Sports and who we want to target. That, for me, is almost the more important thing coming in [to the role]. We’ve got clarity of vision and alignment of approach,” he tells Marketing Week.

“The job for me and the team off the back of that is to do the best creative work possible that’s going to drive the most efficiency and resonate the most with audiences,” he adds. “I think we’ve done that with these first two big campaigns.”

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Differentiation is key for marketing women’s sportIn the last month since launching The Greatest Show on Earth, Sky Sports has delivered “record viewing numbers” off the back of it. Stratton claims the opening weekend of the Premier League was its “highest ever” in terms of viewers – alongside driving subscriber numbers.

Its figures for women’s sport more broadly beyond football are also growing, says Stratton, and as the profile builds there are “more brands coming into this space” – though he can’t say which – and it’s now starting to “bear fruit”.

Alongside Keep Up, Sky Sports is launching a content partnership with media platform Refinery29 to spotlight WSL players – Sky Sports Editions – which sees them direct their own magazine cover shoots.

Sky Sports wants to be at the forefront of showcasing women’s sport. “Hopefully, we can take the lead on that. We are seen as the number one broadcaster for women’s sport and we want to continue to grow that position,” says Stratton.

“As we raise the visibility of women’s sport, the viewing numbers are going to increase and hopefully that continues to translate into increased grassroots participation as well,” he concludes.

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