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It’s good being Alex Morgan these days, or any member of the U.S. women’s soccer team for that matter, as they’re riding high on a wave of online love as America’s sweethearts on and off the soccer field. Their multi-faceted notoriety benefits their sport, of course, and it also provides exceptional amplification opportunities for brands, as well as the players themselves.

Let’s see how all of this influence is playing out and what lessons it offers.

Online Celebrities in the Making

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has everything you’d want in a good celebrity story – they’re brash, youngish, and have experienced a somewhat meteoric rise to fame demonstrating skills that can’t be stopped.

Their win this weekend aside, though stunning, really does little to affect their draw.

The U.S. definitely headed into this matchup against the Netherlands as the expected winner:

The Netherlands, having won their semi-finals to go head-to-head with the “arrogant Americans” (as they’re come to be known on the world stage) had their work cut out for them and knew it:

“We haven’t been playing our best football and still reached the final, so that’s something incredible for our nation,” Dominique Bloodworth of the Netherlands said. . . “They’re a massive team, and they have massive players. Obviously, we know that. They’re the biggest team in the world, but I can’t wait to play them. And who knows what can happen?”

The sentiment agreed, rooting for the underdog, as online often does. The Netherlands was capturing less than 1% of the conversation, but the sentiment was certainly in their favor:

For although the U.S. team has been fantastically impressive, with followers obsessed with every bit of their lives, including personally, they’ve gained both online love and hate for their show-off behavior.

It started when they absolutely destroyed Thailand’s team and celebrating as they went, leaving the Thai team in tears and a bad taste in many viewers’ mouths:

And the calls of “poor sportsmanship” were capped off by the actions of team captain, Alex Morgan, after the U.S. team beat the UK in a fantastic game. Her immediate reaction after the game winning goal? She pretended to drink tea, as it was the day before America’s Independence Day celebrations (celebrating the US winning its independence from England, of course).

And followed it up unapologetically with this tweet, as the day also fell on her birthday:

Which made many love her and the US women’s team even more, while others find her just insufferably arrogant.

Controversial women indeed. And pushing the historical envelope in more ways than one.

History In The Making

They’re not “new” to the soccer scene at all, of course, as the U.S. Women’s team has been dominating the World Cup for a good bit of time now. They’re the team to beat. And the limelight is something the team, as a whole, has been courting for decades:

But 2019 has proven a remarkable year of firsts for them, with one that’s catapulted the players’ renown nearly as much as their expert playing has: Suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal treatment and pay. The US Women’s Soccer Team organization fully supports them, and they’ve generated quite a support network besides:

And they’ve also made waves for resenting the scheduling snafu that has them sharing the spotlight with the men on the same day of their championship matchup. Advocating for themselves is a special skillset each possesses, as evidenced by the off-field successes of team captains Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn. Each are formidable in their own right. And each has created powerful branded personas to supplement their soccer income streams.

They aren’t waiting on sponsorships, and speak boldly about this as well. And this is something brands really need to pay attention to as they navigate partnerships with athletes in the future.

Being The Brand

“Eight days before the Women’s World Cup begins in France, Visa revealed it would partner with both the Women’s and Men’s U.S. National Teams. However, it said the terms of the deal ensured “at least 50%” of the investment would fund the USWNT and women’s soccer programs and surrounding marketing efforts.” Smart move, as these athletes are off and running with their own businesses offering income to fund causes and interests they’re passionate about.

Current and former world cup champions, one being current team captain Megan Rapinoe, recently launched re-inc:

It plans to offer “a full gender-neutral line encompassing street wear, health and wellness, and technology.”

And then Alex Morgan is headlining another teammate-formed effort, USA vs Everybody, selling shirts, hats and sweatshirts saying the same.

And that sentiment “USA vs Everybody” really sums it up from a branding standpoint for this team as a whole, as well as the individual players making noise. They’ve found their voices online and have realized the power they can command. The niche areas each has created speaks to online personalities’ (athlete and celebrities alike) growing refusal to compromise or accept inauthentic partnerships. They want a seat at the table, are increasingly getting it.

Authentic Partnerships Make A Difference

It’s a stance all brands should seek to emulate – and something we support 100%. They’d certainly be better for it.

Genuine passion for a product or service sells better than any forced fit. When approaching marketing the way these star athletes do, brands seeking to partner with someone powerful (or any potential influencer) should always seek to understand who these influencers are and what they stand for – and if those values are a match for your brand.

Reach out and we’ll show you how to find your own fearlessly authentic influencers!

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