When Frito-Lay North America announced its partnership with FIFA to become the “official USA snack” of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, it marked the company’s largest-ever investment in women’s sports.
The women’s soccer push builds on Frito-Lay’s campaign for the 2022 baseball season, when it relaunched the iconic “Cracker Jack” as “Cracker Jill.” The brand also pledged $200,000 to the Women’s Sports Foundation and encouraged fans to donate by offering a special-edition “Cracker Jill” bag in return.
These are more than marketing activities. It’s smart, strategic public relations. Audiences crave authenticity that goes beyond words. Don’t just tell me what you believe in. Show me. Frito-Lay is communicating what it values as an organization through purposeful action.
As public relations professionals, we love to tell good stories, using words and images to get our messages across. In a shifting media landscape with fewer opportunities to land traditional coverage through press releases and press conferences, sports sponsorships provide a powerful avenue to communicate a brand’s key messages in meaningful ways.
Women’s sports aren’t just having a cultural moment; leagues, teams and players are coming into their own in the business and marketing worlds. Investing in women’s sports is no longer seen as something nice to do, but a smart strategy if done with intention.
You don’t have to be a giant, like Frito-Lay, to be part of the movement.
There are women’s teams in your own backyards. Organizations should view these partnerships as opportunities to communicate priorities, engage with the community and build credibility.
Here are three reasons to lean into local women’s sports as part of your PR mix:
Live your values locally. Chances are that diversity, equity and inclusion are part of your company’s mission and vision. Investment in women’s sports is one way to show, not just tell, what you believe in.
Consider, too, that women’s teams and leagues often operate from a purpose-driven business model. While that includes gender equity, it stretches into other key areas of community building and social justice issues, from volunteering in schools and neighborhood sports programs to addressing mental health for young people.
Build authenticity. Who wouldn’t want to sponsor the Women’s World Cup? But if you’ve never been a supporter of women’s sports, jumping to the top tier, or only coming out for big-time events (even the local ones) won’t cut it with your audience. They may even see it as performative, undercutting the message you’re trying to send.
Fans look for authenticity in partnerships between brands and their sports teams — particularly fans of women’s sports. Involvement at the grassroots level can communicate that you’re in it for the right reasons.
Fuel your creativity. Women’s sports traditionally provide more flexibility for customized sponsorships. Companies can get creative with their activations, which can range from utilizing technology to grassroots initiatives that address important issues such as access to sports and educational opportunities.
We’ve implemented this approach at The Martin Group, an integrated marketing and communications firm headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., with offices across the state. The agency partnered with FC Buffalo, a local soccer club featuring high-level, semi-pro women’s and men’s teams.
On the soccer pitch, The Martin Group is the official kit sponsor of FC Buffalo, gaining visibility to a loyal fan base. Off the pitch, the agency has provided in-kind PR support.
The partnership gave The Martin Group an outlet to live its mantra — “The Difference Is Making One” — authentically and creatively. FC Buffalo is involved in the community and committed to providing equitable resources in its operations; we’re showing those values also matter to us.
Others can use this playbook, localizing investment in women’s sports to communicate company values beyond the X’s and O’s of traditional PR tactics.
Amy Moritz is a public relations manager at The Martin Group and author of the agency’s blog series “She’s Got Next,” which features conversations with women in sports and sports-adjacent careers.