Heineken marketing campaign tackles gender bias in how folks discuss soccer

It’s an experience that happens all too often in sport. You’re tuning into coverage and a commentator declares that it’s been however many years since an individual or a team has won a given title or tournament, or broken a historic record – and then it turns out that the statistic only took into account male competitors.

A new campaign from Heineken aims to redress the imbalance implicit in how people talk about football – including players, fans and facts. The beer brand signed up to a multi-year sponsorship deal with the UEFA Women’s Champions League and UEFA Women’s Euros in 2021.

The campaign centres on a key ad, titled Cheers to All Fans, Men Included, in which we see women fans demonstrating their commitment to the sport. In the ad, that means trekking through bad weather to catch the game, slipping out to the restaurant loos to get the latest score, lingering in the stands after a defeat or egging on passers-by after a win.

It’s also joined by a shorter spot, called the Greatest Goal, featuring broadcaster and former Arsenal player Alex Scott, as well as fellow pundit and Arsenal alum Thierry Henry, who together front the wider campaign. The ‘greatest goal’ in question belongs to the former with her decisive goal for Arsenal in the 2007 UEFA Women’s Cup Final.

The campaign marks the launch of an online resource called Fresher Football, which brings together stats pertaining to the UEFA Champions League – like top goalscorers and most decorated teams – taking into account teams and players on both the men’s and women’s side. The microsite is supported by football media website Goal (though it looks to be inexplicably absent from Goal’s own website).

Given the role of search engines and fan sites in perpetuating these inaccuracies, the initiative also promises to intercept online searches and buy key AdWords related to popular questions about football.

Many women participating in football – either as fans, players, presenters or staff – will agree there’s plenty more to be done to overcome toxic attitudes towards women’s place in the sport. At the same time, plenty of other fans will inevitably be rubbed up the wrong way by this Heineken campaign – and not just due to the decision to use Liverpool’s anthem to score the ad.

In the meantime, though, it’s an interesting example of a big brand acknowledging the lack of recognition of women’s achievements in this space.

Agency: Publicis Italy/Le Pub
Global CCO: Bruno Bertelli 
CCOs: Cristiana Boccassini, Mihnea Gheorghiu
ECD: Milos Obradovic
Global CD: Sandra Bold
Art Director Supervisor: Marie Poumeyrol
ACDs: Corina Patraucean, Nicolo Carrassi
Creatives: Daniele Tesi, Thiago Jacon, Conor Barry
Production Company (Cheers to All Fans, Men Included): Good People Films
Director:  Ali Ali
Production company (Fresher Football): The Sweetshop
Director:  Jakob Marky