Marketing the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 event

Marketing, media and communications leader for the sporting event, which returns to Australia this year, talks about the new campaign, brand logo and smarts to driving event success

Growing interest, respect and acknowledgment of the talent going into women’s sports is an opportunity and challenge for the marketing chief overseeing the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 event.

Taryn Kirby is general manager of marketing, media and communications for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Local Organising Committee. The flagship women’s competition and international event sees the best players from 12 of basketball’s powerhouse nations across Africa, Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe vying for glory through 38 games played across 10 days. This year’s event takes place at Sydney Olympic Park from 22 September to 1 October 2022 and is the first time the World Cup has returned to Australia since 1994.

As part of its marketing strategy, the local organising committee has brought on Saatchi & Saatchi as its creative agency partner and debuted its 2022 campaign, ‘Nothing beats like it’. The campaign aims to inspire Australians to be at the international sporting event by encapsulating all the energy and excitement of the game. To do this, it’s employing a custom-made track featuring sounds on the court – ball bouncing, sneakers squeaking and cheering fans – as well as stories from leading basketball players.

The campaign will appear in the lead up to and during the games, stretching across film, print, out-of-home, digital and social content.

Kirby agreed the women’s basketball world cup in Australia was certainly coming at a time when there’s heightened interest and support for women in sport.

“It presents great opportunities but also some challenges for us in women’s basketball. There is a lot more interest, respect and acknowledgement of the talent and dedication that goes into women’s sport – more than we have ever seen before. That translates to media, hopefully commercial support and being in a stronger place than 5-10 years ago,” she commented.  

“The challenge for basketball, particularly in Australia, is the Opals brand and women’s team has always been strong, with iconic players like Lauren Jackson. But we now have a lot more sports coming up to that level, so there is more competition than perhaps there was when Opals brand was built.

“But yes, it’s a great time to position and play women’s sport. Things will only get stronger, and we’ll see more people getting behind it as more players can dedicate their time fully to it as players. The product will only get better as a result.”

Building a World Cup event marketing plan

Like many global sporting competitions, Kirby’s team is working with international body, FIBA, on behalf of Basketball Australia, to build out the 2022 event.

One early task was to develop the event brand logo. To do this, Kirby’s team and ad agency, Campfire X, worked with 14-year-old indigenous artist and basketball player from Alice Springs, Amarlie ‘Marlii’ Biscoe, who produced an artwork reflecting what is important to her life, including family, culture, language, art and basketball.

“We had a brand identity and a few corporate elements from FIBA. But we also needed a campaign at a more domestic level, that was emotive. We went through a tender process and Saatchi & Saatchi was successful,” Kirby said.

The ‘Nothing beats like it’ campaign was the result. “As an organisation, we have an ambition to show the power, excitement and unity involved in international women’s basketball. Many people don’t see that,” Kirby said.

“We wanted the campaign to represent that, but also to reflect the entertainment elements of going to see basketball played. As a product, it’s one of the most entertaining sports in terms of what happens on and off the court. That’s where the tagline of our campaign comes in – it brings in the music element and entertainment, which resonates with the basketball community.”  

While ‘Nothing beats like it’ is the main tagline, Kirby said its flexibility was particularly appealing. The organising committee will use a variation, ‘Nothing beat like you’, as a mechanism for drumming up noise within the crowd around the game. ‘Nothing beats like us’, meanwhile, is reserved for the players’ narrative.

“We’ll also have different offsets of this for highlights of basketball – nothing beats like a three-pointer or buzzer beater, and all the exciting moments,” Kirby explained.  

The campaign is oriented around advertising and the digital environment. But with a long lead time of seven months until the games commence, Kirby admitted the team needed multi-pronged ways of building up momentum as the event gets closer.  

“We need to stay nimble on all fronts, which is why we’re not going out all at once – different elements and visuals are rolling out and being used to keep it fresh,” she said.  

Beyond that, the organising committee has school engagement programs in their sights through a five-week curriculum in term three. This is about giving schools a link to the World Cup and build momentum with kids in the lead up to the event.

“We’re also looking at clubs and grassroots programs to get those already involved in basketball and grand this world. All of those elements come together to hopefully get the results we need,” Kirby said.

In terms of gauging success, Kirby firstly pointed to several strategic event goals, including an exceptional experience onsite that matches expectations of a world-class event. Commercial elements include ticket sales, plus broadcast numbers internationally. Another imperative is lifting the profile of women playing basketball.

“People like to resonate and connect with the players and see them both on and off the court, to understand them as humans and the stories behind them. We’re trying to bring that to the forefront too,” Kirby said. “Then there’s how we can leave a legacy for Australian women’s basketball plus international women’s basketball going forward. That could be participation, more fans at local competitions, engaging referees and officials on and off the court.  

“Australia last hosted the Women’s World Cup in 1994 and people are still talking about it today. Our ambassador, Lauren Jackson, was inspired by it. You can’t beat what you can’t see, and we hope bringing them here will inspire a lot of little girls to keep pushing at basketball, whether that be to be better or just to participate.”

Sports marketing nous

Having previously worked for the GreenEdge cycling team as well as sports marketing agency, Jump Media and Marketing, Kirby is well versed building sporting event brands. One of the benefits she cited of working on the World Cup 2022 was getting to start largely from scratch.

“It can be a real opportunity to make the event what you and the board want it to be. There is a deadline, so lots of pressure on that front and it’s intense,” she said.

A key skill here is careful planning, Kirby continued. “When you’re working on something annual, you can end up in a constant cycle. With this style of event, you are planning and have that looming deadline. The event stops for nobody.”

But while every event is unique, the basics of marketing events don’t change considerably between sports or years, Kirby said.

“Yes, there are lots of development as time goes on - we just saw the 1994 report and it’s very different to what we do now - but as a sports marketing professional, you know what is expected. The sport and the community might be different, and you have to find the right way to speak to them, but the essence of marketing doesn’t change,” she said.

Having had the 12 qualifying teams confirmed on 15 February, the local events committee is now working on the competition draw, due in the next couple of weeks. From there, the events schedule is released, with tickets to go on sale from end of March.

“There’s a natural lift from these milestone moments and as tickets go on sale to rollout different campaign elements, then we’ll look at different opportunities such as local events and local basketball in coming months,” Kirby said. “We’ll kick off again in July and August when people are more ready for a transaction.”

Helping inform decision-making is extensive research into buying patterns and attitudes of consumers given the ongoing Covid-19 environment.

“We know buying tickets for September in March-April a is not expected to be our strongest sales period,” Kirby said. “We need to be across what the market is saying, and we have done a lot of research around this, especially how our target audience is feeling, customers, events expectations, purchasing tickets. The return of international tourism is great for us, it’s more time than I had personally expected.

“We need to increase awareness to start with, which is what this is about. Then we need to maintain it. But you can’t go at 100 per cent all the time without a limitless budget, so we’ll lift up again as we head into the event.”  

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