We’re going to soon find out whether the legend of The World Cup Bump™ is fact or fiction.
The idea has taken on a life of its own through the years. It provided wholly incomplete answers in 2011, when the now defunct Women’s Professional Soccer enjoyed a significant short-term boost in interest but was already embroiled in an ugly, costly, public battle with the late Dan Borislow over his team’s failure to follow league guidelines. WPS was a dead league walking by the time the U.S. women captured the general public’s attention in 2011.
The National Women’s Soccer League was in the middle of its third season when the United States won the 2015 World Cup, and the league enjoyed a 20 percent boost in attendance that year, with further growth in 2016 before a regression in 2017. Combine that increase in attendance with the arrival of the Orlando Pride – whose interest piqued at that exact time it did in large part because of the historic level of attention on the sport – and you can point to tangible evidence that the World Cup bore fruit for the NWSL.
Where you still can’t point to that is in the form of significant national sponsorship. A+E Networks bought a 25-percent equity stake in the league in early 2017, in addition to becoming a broadcast rights holder, and that in itself was a less traditional form of new sponsorship. At the very least, it was significant new money, which is what sponsorship is all about.
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