Reasons that stem from the NWSL’s announcement back in July and with the league signing a broadcast deal with both CBS Sports and Twitch, the aim was to add more media exposure to the competition.
While if that was the aim, it was certainly achieved and with the recent NWSL Challenge Cup in the history books, it seems as if there were a lot more eyes on the prize over the course of the summer months.
The Challenge Cup itself was formed after a required format change and instead of playing a regular season competition as normal, a shortened league and play-off setup was contested by eight of the nine existing franchises.
Even though the original plan was for all nine to compete in the 2020 Challenge Cup, Orlando Pride had to subsequently withdraw before a ball was kicked and this meant the remaining outfits played for nothing more than play-off seedings instead.
Once those four league fixtures were contested and the play-offs weeded out six of the eight entrants, eventual winners Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars would compete in the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship
A showpiece event that has broken all previous NWSL broadcasting records and with 653,000 viewers tuning in to see Houston Dash win by two goals to nil, it suggests the competition is in a relative state of good health.
Especially when you consider that year-on-year domestic television audiences are up by nearly 500% and it is not just people tuning in for the biggest game on the calendar either, as the NWSL’s Fall Series has also generated healthy viewing audiences.
The additional competition was created, in order to help add some meat to the 2020 NWSL calendar and with an average audience of 383,000 watching all nine franchises take part (thankfully Orlando Pride had returned) it seems as if business is continue to boom.
Of course, the measure of a league’s popularity cannot be covered simply in linear television ratings these days and part of any sporting competition’s branding exercise will see Social Media platforms do their bit also.
Something that has certainly been the case as far as the NWSL are concerned, with the league reporting a 152% year-on-year increase on social media, and coverage by news outlets has increased by 55%.
With increased traction online and more viewers tuning into the competition, it also means that big name sponsors are not all that far behind and with deals being inked with the likes of Verizon and Google, some heavy hitters are ready to join the fray.
All these metrics obviously give the NWSL reason to be bullish about their future and this point was reinforced in the recent comments that were made by league commissioner Lisa Baird:
“Our players are the best in the world, adapted to the challenges of 2020 like you would expect, and delivered a product on the field that audiences flocked to. I’m so incredibly proud to be associated with our players”
Not to mention that the strength of any American league is usually measured by its plans for expansion and this is something that the NWSL can thankfully also herald, as for the 2021 season Racing Louisville Football Club will swell the number of competing franchises to 10.
At a time where so many stories are steeped in financial woe and the very threat of existence, it is heartening to see such a good news story and more importantly, to see a good news story come out of the Women’s professional game at the same time.
Written by Dan Tracey