“In recent years, women’s football has undergone a remarkable transformation as a brand opportunity,” says Samir Singh, global chief marketing officer at Unilever Personal Care (pictured).
“Once overlooked, it now spearheads cultural change,” he explains, adding that tournament sponsorship now “extends beyond the sport to symbolise societal progress and norm-redefining”.
Unilever’s personal care brands, including Rexona (also known as Sure and Degree), Dove, Lifebuoy and Lux, were announced this year as official sponsors of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a deal that will run through to 2027.
Despite the extraordinary success of this year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, “with viewership records soaring off the charts”, Singh points out that Unilever’s work with FIFA “isn’t just a flashy half-time show”.
“Beyond the spotlight of the games,” he says, “it’s a commitment to Unilever's collaboration with FIFA in their Women’s Development Programme.”
In the spirit of this scheme, Unilever celebrated this Women’s World Cup by launching activities such as a friendly match between female content creators in collaboration with TikTok, and a FIFA World Roblox collaboration to appeal to the younger generation of female football fans.
Additionally, Rexona worked with US player Christen Press to help create safe and inclusive environments for girls of colour on and off the field, through a series of free training modules created to equip coaches and teachers with the skills to ensure equal opportunities in football.
“This is no fleeting partnership – it’s a long-term strategy,” clarifies Singh. “It is more than just endorsing a game; it’s about crafting products, campaigns and initiatives that resonate with the dreams and aspirations of women and girls, both within and beyond the sporting arena.”
Although social purpose may be front of mind for Unilever in its women’s sports work, it has also boosted the image of its personal care brands.
Singh confirms that the sponsorship has had a “tangible market impact”, increasing engagement with Rexona in terms of both product use and social-media engagement.
“This thriving platform now offers unprecedented potential for brand engagement, connecting with diverse audiences through amplified viewership, attendance and media coverage,” he tells PRWeek.
“Aligning our brands with this inspiring movement not only enhances our market share but also taps into a reservoir of brand power that resonates personally and emotionally with consumers.”
Thinking ahead to the sponsorship of future tournaments, Singh says there are three main ways in which Unilever’s personal care brands will look to reshape their strategy.
First, he asserts that “deeper integration” will occur, embedding the sponsorship more visibly into the core of its brands “in advertising and innovation”.
“Secondly,” he adds, “we need to embed it into culture using the power of social and AI to make our campaigns disruptive and unmissable. We started with TikTok and Roblox with Rexona, but there is more to come here.”
Third, he makes clear that Unilever “recognises the challenges ahead” when it comes to gender inequality, and expresses a desire to “confront them directly”.
“This entails advocating for equal pay, resources, opportunities and media visibility.
“Yet, it reaches deeper,” he continues. “Six in 10 girls feel disconnected from football. Our brands possess the potential to inspire these girls, fostering confidence and inclusivity.
“For example, Dove will champion body positivity, empowering girls to excel on the field. Collaborating closely with FIFA, teams and grassroots initiatives, we aim to propel countless more girls into football, fostering empowerment, inclusiveness and positive transformation.
But does Singh truly believe that the recent World Cup has brought the goal of equality and the role that brands can play in this, into closer view?
“Absolutely, without a doubt, this Women’s World Cup has marked a definitive turning point for brand partnerships,” he says. “The impact has been nothing short of spectacular.”
“The partnership is not just about slapping logos onto jerseys anymore. It’s about seamlessly weaving FIFA into the fabric of our brand’s DNA.”
Speaking on Unilever’s commitment to meaningful collaboration with FIFA’s Women’s Development Programme, Singh concludes: “This initiative is designed to open doors for women and girls, fostering the growth of women’s football across the globe – a goal that’s as vital as the final whistle in a championship match.”