UEFA Women’s Champions League Final - Observations and opportunities for future growth

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On the last weekend in May, the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final (UWCLF) took place in Bilbao with FC Barcelona taking on Olympique Lyonnais. Malte de Souza Otremba – Vice President and Head of Global Business Development at SPORTFIVE was at San Mamés Stadium and has shared his key observations from the weekend through the lens of a sports marketing agency. These include a recognition of the tremendous growth that this event has achieved over the last years as well as an identification of further areas of improvement across the product, its sponsor integration and broadcast distribution.


Simply wow. I was absolutely amazed by the sold out crowd of 50,000+ spectators who chanted non-stop throughout the game and who filled the streets of Bilbao already on Friday night in their respective team colors. The atmosphere was vibrant, welcoming and very positive. Overall, and as observed throughout the last years, it was very different to the average men’s professional football match.


Olympique Lyonnais, the most successful women’s club football team in the world with SPORTFIVE being its proud long-term partner, faced last year’s UWCL winner FC Barcelona. Both teams had enjoyed a remarkable season with both of them securing their national trophies (League + Cup) and this “meeting of the giants” kept what it had promised: an intense, very balanced 90+6 minutes of football with chances on both sides. With goals from Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas, the trophy was won for Barca by the last two Ballon d’Or winners, further emphasizing their star player and national hero status

Away from the high-class football, to my surprise there was no entertainment pre-match or during half-time. Given the very different audience of women’s football vs. men’s football, I believe that a prominent music act would have been very well received by the crowd in the stadium as well as on the screens. Rosalia would have been a great fit for example given her Spanish roots and global fame especially amongst a young, female target audience. The benefits that such a big music or entertainment act can bring to the game is the:

  1. Overall increase in awareness for the event

  2. Excitement of new, different target groups (compare the Taylor Swift Super Bowl effect which drove in millions of ‘Swifties’ to tune into the Super Bowl for the first time)

  3. Additional TV viewership and thus sponsorship exposure

Of course, there is the question of financing such an additional entertainment act, but at SPORTFIVE we know from experience that a lot of women from adjacent entertainment verticals next to sports (music, film, fashion) are willing to support women’s sports and thus potentially accept lower fees or other forms of compensation. Even if fees go according to market rates, wouldn’t this be a worthwhile investment for the sustainable growth of the women’s game?


There were different activations in front of the stadium. Although rather small in size, Heineken’s activation tent with a DJ, marching bands and former players such as Jill Scott (executed by our friends from Barcelona-based marketing agency Minerva) were very well received by the crowd.

Within the stadium, my point of view is that sponsors could be integrated and called out even more. We know that an important reason why sponsors are investing into women’s football is that they want to support the growth of the ‘movement’. I would say the large majority of fans understand and support that. In fact, taking our partner, the NWSL, as an example, we know that 92% of NWSL fans strongly agree to the statement that sponsors make it possible for NWSL players to compete.

Therefore, why not give the supporting sponsors more room during the UWCL’s pinnacle event. For example, publicly thanking these sponsors for making the event possible and highlighting their commitment to the growth of the women’s game prior to kick off. This kind of act of appreciation to the sponsors is well-known from conferences and other sports events and I’d argue that the impact is higher than by playing the sponsors’ TV ads on the stadium screens post-match. 

Finally, to the two biggest challenges that the UWCLF is still facing:

1. Broadcast reach

In most markets around the world the UWCLF has been broadcasted on DAZN and DAZN’s free YouTube channel. While DAZN’s own platform viewership data is not public, DAZN’s YouTube Stream data is available and at time of writing (Monday morning after the Final), the full match coverage has been accessed 670k times and English language highlights were accessed 800k times.

Based on detailed viewership analysis of similar major sports events, we believe that average live viewership of the event on DAZN’s YouTube channel was between 150-200k. In UWCL’s key markets Spain and UK there was also distribution through sub-licensing agreements with RTVE and TV3 (Spain) as well as TNT (UK and Ireland). In other major markets (e.g., France, Germany) there was no linear free to air coverage of the UWCLF.

DAZN, the long-term partner of the UEFA Women’s Champions League and other women’s football properties around the world, has been trying a lot over recent years to promote the game on its channels, placing them as a key advocate of women’s football. This has been extremely appreciated across the sports industry and has been very important for the development of the game.

However, the numbers show that DAZN’s promotional power and current reach is not big enough to create enough awareness and bring more people in front of the screens. And this is a limiting factor for the growth of the UWCLF and the entire UEFA Women’s Champions League competition. In my personal view, future media rights distribution setups need to be more diverse across linear and streaming, as well as across free-to-air (FTA) and Pay-TV in order to expose as many people as possible to this great competition. The latest NWSL domestic media rights distribution decision (4 partners across linear and streaming as well as FTA and Pay in addition to their own D2C streaming platform and promotional obligations across media partners) is a good example for a strategy that aspires to reach new target audiences while maximizing value for the rightsholder to invest further into the competition and its underlying foundations.

2. Scheduling

This is certainly a tough nut to crack and will require a concerted effort across the entire European football ecosystem (leagues, national associations, UEFA). But I think we can all agree that it is far from ideal when the UWCLF kicks off only hours before / after the men’s national cup competition finals in England, France and Germany kick off and men’s league matches are played in Spain and Italy.

First of all, it creates a conflict between watching UWCLF vs the men’s finals / matches as only a fraction of people will watch both matches (simultaneously or one after the other). Secondly, it creates a situation where the men’s and the women’s teams of some clubs might play in parallel, leading club supporters to potentially chose between one or the other match (as it happened with Lyon this weekend who played next to the UWCLF and also the Coupe de France Final only hours later). From my point of view, the collective ambition of European Football stakeholders should be to provide the UWCLF with a dedicated time slot that stays consistent over time, where there is at least no other major (men’s) matches happening at the same time across the top five European leagues.


In summary, attending the UWCLF was a terrific experience and I can highly recommend experiencing the power of a UWCLF yourself in the coming years (2025 Final to take place in Lisbon, 2026 UWCLF in Oslo). A lot of things are on a great trajectory with European women’s football already coming a long way. Nevertheless, there are still some key areas of improvement (e.g: new target groups / fans, media distribution, scheduling) that need to be tapped into in order to unleash the full power that this product has and that it deserves.

At SPORTFIVE we are committed to advancing women’s sports and women’s football in particular and are very proud to already work with several fantastic rightsholders and brands in the ecosystem. These include amongst others the most successful women’s football club Olympique Lyonnais and the largest national women’s football league, the NWSL. We have also recently set up an global growth initiative with the ambition to advancing our contribution to women’s sports and women’s football across the world. If you want to learn more about our experience in this space and how we can collaborate, please reach out.

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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