England squad announcement shows the nuanced differences between promoting men’s and women’s football

As England announced their squad for the Women’s World Cup in France this week, the first thought was that is would be hard for the FA to match – or indeed better – last year’s squad announcement video for the men’s team as they went off to the World Cup in Russia a summer ago.

But that shouldn’t really be the point of the squad announcement, nor any social media campaign the FA launches for the Lionesses. And this time they’ve done something a bit different.

Enlisting the help of some of the biggest names in sport and entertainment, each player was announced individually in a different video posted from the @Lionesses Twitter account which saw the whole announcement take centre stage on social media across the whole morning.

The precedent for a changing relationship between the England elite teams and their fans was set last year with the men’s announcement, so naturally the two will be compared, but the needs of the women’s team are very different to that of the men’s side.

Last year’s video played up the diversity of England’s men’s team. Young people from each player’s home area announced each of the squad members and featured an array of accents and backgrounds – representative of the squad’s diversity, but also of its youth and energy.

This time, it wasn’t a short video but a series of them, featuring massive celebrities and allowing the Lionesses account to piggyback on the fame (not to mention social media reach) of stars like Emma Watson and Raheem Sterling. Naturally that collection of stars alone would’ve been enough to create a trending topic, but it also allowed the team to tie the names of less famous footballers with more famous celebs.

It shows that the needs of men’s and women’s football aren’t just different but are at times inverted. Men’s football is dominated by distant figures who seem to most of us like unapproachable celebrities: the job of the team, then, is to evoke their personalities and make them relatable. In women’s football, the players are already fairly relatable and, to a large extent, much more approachable, so the job there is arguably to sprinkle some stardust and make watching more compelling.

Perhaps that’s best reflected by the fact that this campaign probably wouldn’t have received such acclaim if it were the announcement of the men’s squad. The immediacy of football news dictates that all of the names will have to be announced together and the idea of waiting for the whole squad over a period of hours to see who’d made the squad would be a strange one given the way modern football media is consumed.

For the women’s team, there’s a different need – to raise the profile of the squad and compel the public to watch the tournament this summer, and to remain fans beyond that.

In some ways, you get the feeling that this is a crucial summer for women’s football. The World Cup, on the back of well-publicised sponsorship deals that have pumped money into the sport in the UK, is an opportunity to show off the sport in its best light and convert casual followers into people who will watch in the longer term.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 835 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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