While some brands consider their relationships with the NWSL, Ally strengthens their resolve to invest more
The GIST: As some brands reconsider their relationships with the NWSL following the findings of an independent investigation into its culture of abuse, one very visible league sponsor isn’t — Ally. The Yates report “strengthened our resolve that we’ve got to invest more and we’ve got to make sure” change occurs, CMO Andrea Brimmer told The GIST on Wednesday.
- The players are “using their power to take their league back,” Brimmer said. “I want ’em to have a league to take back.”
The context: Ally kicked off its partnership with the NWSL by inking a league-wide deal last year, and became the Players Association’s (NWSLPA) first-ever sponsor in February. The company’s NWSLPA agreement allowed the union to fund staffing and launch a National Emergency Trust.
- And the brand’s commitment hasn’t stopped there: After becoming the title sponsor of CBS' championship broadcast, Ally increased its media spend to help move next week’s final to a primetime slot.
The response: Brimmer read the 156-page executive summary of the Yates report and watched the ESPN documentary Truth Be Told twice, which inspired “a lot of tears and a lot of anger, but also a lot of dogma to do the work. As a brand that has established a really significant footprint in soccer, we feel like we have a right to be in the conversation.”
- The exec also reached out to her friend Julie Foudy, a USWNT legend and Angel City FC investor. “[Ally's] first reaction was, ‘How can we help?,’ [saying] ‘We’re not getting out of this space,” Foudy told The GIST at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Annual Salute to Women last week.
The next steps: Though Brimmer said Ally is currently focused on the championship, the brand is also finalizing its 2023 strategy. Ally’s agenda includes sponsoring individual NWSL players “so that [we] know the money’s going into the players’ pockets,” as well as identifying which women’s sports to expand into next.
- Improving the media landscape is also a priority. “We’re really focused right now on female-owned media platforms,” she noted. “We’re also super-focused on holding media platforms accountable. The coverage of the playoffs has been impossible to find, and that’s not okay.”
The sponsors: The exec hopes that “brands will step forward and use their power and their influence to make change,” but notes that approaches should vary. It’s “a lot dicier for a sponsor whose name is on the kit to continue those sponsorships until they know empirically what the teams are going to do to root out the systemic issues,” she said.
- League-level sponsorship is “a whole different animal,” per Brimmer. “I think that this is a time where sponsors have to vow more investment and have to do work and hold the league accountable and also not bail on the players.”
The takeaways: Sponsors are beginning to learn how to leverage their dollars to enact cultural change across sports. While revoking funds is emerging as a trend in both the NWSL and NBA, Ally is attempting to build a different blueprint for accountability.
- Its strategy feels tailored to younger properties like the NWSL and other women’s entities, which rely more heavily on their biggest sponsors compared to their established (often male) equivalents.