Unilever and FIFA’s Partnership at the Women’s World Cup. Brand partnerships in Women’s Football case study – Sure


  • Chris Barron, General Manager Personal Care UK&I/VP Deodorants Europe – Unilever


For Unilever and its Sure brand, last year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup was an unprecedented commercial opportunity.


In the company’s case study on day one of ISC 2024, Chris Barron started off by highlighting how many people in the room had watched the tournament, an illustration that just about got every hand raised in the room.


It showed how many people had been captured by the excitement around this growing event, making it attractive for Unilever to be a part of this story.


This was backed by research, too:

  • 63% of people are more likely to buy from a brand that aligns itself to something they’re passion about
  • 74% of consumers feel more loyalty to a brand involved with sport


Unilever’s prior experiences in sport confirmed this understanding. It has built the Dove Men+Care brand through work with international rugby teams across the British Isles, and taken Sure into partnerships with Chelsea, Manchester City and The Hundred cricket tournament. but Unilever wanted to expand further into football.


However, with 67% of all adults aged 16 to 25 actively following football in the EU, a deeper involvement in the sport was a priority. The Women’s World Cup 2023 represented the perfect opportunity and Sure became the first personal care brand to partner with FIFA at a major tournament.


“We immediately broke the first rule of sports marketing which is planning,” Barron admitted. “We had just three to four months before the World Cup.


“But where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can get things done at speed.”


Barron enthused that the one thing he really loves about these campaigns is that you can be relevant and at the centre of the conversations, something he demonstrated through ads of Chelsea superstar Lauren James in key locations across London and national papers.


Adapting at short notice to the interest around the tournament, Sure ran a competition whose prize was an opportunity to meet James. Instead of flying people to Australia at four months’ notice, this was planned for November and generated great uptake.


Unilever also partnered with TikTok to bring stories and partnerships to life through the World Cup. This generated greater views of the Women’s World Cup hashtag and brought the tournament to more people.


Adaptability remained crucial as England’s tournament continued. James’ red card in the first knockout game against Nigeria led Sure to run the slogan, ‘Not done yet.’


That left Unilever able to capitalise on the anticipation around James’ pending return from suspension, and harness the excitement around the Lionesses’ progression to the final. It also reflected Unilever’s own journey, with Barron announcing a multi-year tournament partnership with UEFA. When it comes to women’s football, Unilever are not done yet either.