The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup turned out to be a big win for Nike, as the U.S. Women's National Team took home gold on Sunday. In the wake of the team's win, Nike released an ad celebrating the victory and calling for a change in the way women's sports are viewed.
"I believe that we will be four-time champions and keep winning until we not only become the best female soccer team, but the best soccer team in the world," the ad runs, imagining a world where both boys and girls aspire to be "like Megan Rapinoe" when they grow up. According to data emailed to Retail Dive from Brandwatch, Nike was mentioned 194,000 times online after running the ad, nearly 470% higher than usual.
In addition to the buzz generated by the ad, which was preceded by several the company ran leading up to the tournament, Nike also took home some winnings from its merchandise sales. CEO Mark Parker announced in June that the U.S. Women's home jersey became the highest selling soccer jersey, men's or women's, on the company's website in one season.
With its latest advertisement, dubbed "Never Stop Winning," Nike continued on its course to position the brand as a meaningful supporter of women in sport.
Not only did the ad position female athletes as role models for any gender, but it also gave a voice to the battles they've been fighting off the field. Those battles include equal pay for the women's national team, which comes back from the World Cup to argue a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging gender discrimination.
"I believe that we will make our voices heard and TV shows will be talking about us every single day and not just once every four years," the ad continues, "and that women will conquer more than just the soccer field, like breaking every single glass ceiling."
The ad joins a portfolio of others celebrating women and their accomplishments, including "Dream Crazier," the Serena Williams-voiced ad that called for female athletes to "show them what crazy can do."
Like the controversial Colin Kaepernick ad Nike came under fire for, "Never Stop Winning" highlights Megan Rapinoe, the star athlete who won both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball for her performance during the tournament, and has also faced widespread criticism for her political views.
The ad fits in well with Nike's marketing history, as well as its goals for the women's business, which grew by double digits in 2019. Indeed, sales of women's apparel around the Women's World Cup grew by over 150% compared to 2015, according to Nike, and the number of women's soccer jerseys sold to men nearly doubled.
However, "Never Stop Winning" also joins the list of initiatives that run counter to the company's corporate culture, which has been singled out by critics as a boys club atmosphere that discriminates against women. More recently, the retailer was also called out for its lack of support for pregnant athletes.