Nike, NWSL Extend Partnership For Three More Years Though '22
The NWSL on Friday "announced an extension of its partnership with Nike" through the end of the '22 season, according to Mitchell Northam of PRO SOCCER USA. The current deal between the league and Nike was "set to expire at the end of this season." Since the end of the '19 Women’s World Cup, the league has "seen a major boost in attendance." Clubs like the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC "have seen record-setting crowds." Nike is also the "maker and seller of the U.S. women’s national team kits" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 8/2). This deal comes on the heels of the NWSL in July announcing that ESPN "would broadcast games" for the rest of the season. The league also recently "announced a sponsorship deal with Budweiser" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/2).
STAYING POWER: In N.Y., Kevin Draper notes NWSL President Amanda Duffy is working to parlay American soccer fans' "post-World Cup interest into long-term gains" for the women's league. Duffy said that she was "'optimistic' more national sponsorship deals would be signed," and that she is "already hunting for a long-term television agreement." The league's recently-signed deal with ESPN only lasts through the NWSL championship in October, "doesn’t pay the league a rights fee and relegates most of its games it airs to the network’s second-tier ESPNews channel." Sponsors and media deals can "easily disappear if the league cannot stabilize and grow." But the "biggest barrier to fans’ attending and watching games may not be that they choose not to, but that they don’t know the league exists." The NWSL has "had time to learn some lessons," but in its seven years has "never been on sure footing." Three NWSL teams have "folded or left," and Duffy is the "third person to be in charge of the league." For the long-term play to succeed, the NWSL "needs committed ownership groups that are willing to suffer losses, but there is ongoing debate about how those groups should be structured." Five NWSL teams currently have affiliations with a men’s pro team while the remaining four are independent. Affiliation gives NWSL teams "access to greater operational resources, but there are fears that an ownership group with both a men’s and a women’s team will always prioritize the men" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/1).