Early on the morning of the World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands, the National Women’s Soccer League announced they had signed a major national sponsor in Budweiser. Budweiser took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to commemorate the multi-year dear.
As for why the announcement was made at 2 a.m., while it isn't an ideal look, I think it might be related to the fact that the back page of the New York Times sports section was on printing presses at that hour:— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) July 7, 2019
(via @PressReader) pic.twitter.com/br0ZvAr4Oo
As part of the deal, Budweiser will also have naming rights to the playoffs, the championship, the MVP trophy, and a “Most Valuable Supporter” award. The deal was done in conjunction with Soccer United Marketing and US Soccer.
NWSL also announced they had finally secured a TV deal through the rest of the season, partnering with EPSN to put on 14 games, including the semifinals and the championship.
These are both crucial elements to a professional sports league that had previously been missing - the TV deal in particular was a gaping hole left in the wake of the league and previous broadcast partner Lifetime parting ways, one year ahead of schedule.
Now with a TV deal and a major national sponsor in place, the league feels like it has a slightly steadier hand at the wheel, particularly as fans and players ask the question of what will happen after the World Cup - every four years, the WC brings record attention to the national team, but that attention struggles to translate to the club level. More money in the league means a better product, and a network deal means a wider cultural reach. Budweiser’s sponsorship also signals to fans that NWSL is not just a league for children and families, but a place for adult fans looking for fun sporting events.
It is slightly concerning that the deal seems to have at least partially gone through SUM. One of the biggest meta questions around NWSL is how long it can or should rely on the help of US Soccer; USSF’s subsidization of national team player salaries has undoubtedly been crucial in keeping American stars in the league and salary caps manageable for team owners, but it has also created a dichotomy where national team players don’t feel beholden to their clubs. The day NWSL is able to function independently of US Soccer will be a major sign of the league’s progress and long-term viability.
In the meantime, it’s up to the league to brainstorm ways to translate this wave of interest in women’s soccer and the World Cup players in NWSL into permanent growth.