Since its inception, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has been one of the most dominant squads in sports, earning three Women’s World Cup titles and four Olympics gold medals. As a result of that success, even the most casual soccer fans in the U.S. have embraced the WNT, a team that adopted a fitting tagline for the 2019 World Cup: One nation, one team.
Those in charge of marketing at U.S. Soccer wanted to capitalize on that patriotic pride, so they have unveiled WNT Everywhere to forge a connection between fans and players on the team ahead of the World Cup. Starting this week, USWNT players can be seen featured on murals and posters designed by female artists in different locations around the country.
“We’re creating this ‘energy moment’ around what is already a big event,” said U.S. Soccer director of analytics, Ross Moses.
A new U.S. Soccer app has also been introduced. It offers fans the opportunity to scan the murals or posters and unlock exclusive geo-targeted content, like special messages from USWNT players, based on their location.
“To take soccer to the next level, it requires the entire nation to be involved, especially with the World Cup moment this summer,” said Kay Bradley, brand director at U.S. Soccer. “The Women’s National Team has a narrative that we think is extremely emotive and powerful for fans. They’re such elite athletes on the field, and they have such approachable personalities off the field, so they have the ability to inspire fans to achieve what they want, related or unrelated to soccer.”
The posters have been placed in locations where each player has a special bond. For example, posters featuring Alex Morgan are located in Orlando, as Morgan is a member of the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.
“We’re more focused on talking about the teams behind the scenes and players and their backgrounds, and less on keeping up with the ESPNs and Bleacher Reports of the world,” said Moses. “It’s more of a buildup of these storylines for teams and players.”
The new app will serve a larger purpose beyond the WNT Everywhere activation, providing fans a one-stop shop for game-day information, ticket purchases and live content like stats and highlights. It is part of U.S. Soccer’s recent digital revamp, which also includes a website overhaul and new data infrastructure.
The murals and posters were an important, authentic supplement to the app, explained Moses, who helped execute the digital revamp.
“It’s easy to scale with digital, but we wanted to have that physical aspect,” he said. “We wanted to have boots on the ground, so to speak, where people were stopping to take a look, or they were seeking out and finding these original pieces of art…We’re taking this physical piece and setting it off by blending it with the app so the players come to life.”
“We would love to take every player to every city to play games, but that’s not possible,” Bradley added. “We thought, ‘How can we bring the team and players to cities across America, and if not physically, how can we do it digitally?’ This merges the two, physical and digital.”
The final product—murals in 11 cities and posters depicting all 23 players—captures the attention of the everyday passerby.
“Our avid, hardcore fans—there’s an appeal for them, but we also felt this was a way to bridge the gap between avid fans and casual fans, those people who are interested in soccer but aren’t following us all the time,” Bradley said. “The element of artwork, which is outside, brings a cultural appeal to the activation for someone who’s not innately interested in soccer, but it could pique their curiosity.”
Even with the emphasis on the physical experience, U.S. Soccer still prioritizes the digital side, thanks to its young audience.
“There’s not much we do that isn’t related to tech,” Moses said. “We know the millenial and Gen Z generations have got their phones tied to their hands, so if you’re not giving them a digital experience, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
Although WNT Everywhere will build interest for the 2019 World Cup, Bradley and her team hope it leaves a lasting legacy beyond this summer.
“We want to generate interest and deepen the relationship, so [fans] start to engage with the federation and team, and deepen it so they’re supporting during the competition and continue to have that relationship with U.S. Soccer once the World Cup ends,” she said. “Our overarching mission is to become the preeminent sport here in the U.S. That’s our goal.”