CommsCon: How the FIFA Women’s World Cup helped Optus reclaim its brand

After a colossal data breach threatened to topple the mighty telco, Optus rose from the ashes via a campaign embodying empowerment, possibility, hope and inspiration – tied together with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Speaking at Mumbrella CommsCon last week, Clive Dickens, vice president, TV, content and product development at Optus, unpacked the telco’s journey as a major proponent of women’s football in a time when the company’s reputation was in the gutter.

“This was an incredibly phenomenal platform to obviously rebuild our brand of what had been a very difficult 12 months for our customers after the cyber-attack,” Dickens admitted, referencing the aforementioned breach that made a major dent in the organisation’s brand value.

Clive Dickens

But the chance to define the societal conversation – in this case, women’s involvement in football – ultimately served as the right avenue for Optus to bounce back and make a tangible difference.

While the organisation’s advocacy technically began with its Optus Sport subscriptions aimed at children in 2019, the needle didn’t seriously start moving until Australia was chosen to host the 2023 tournament, and Optus won “a very competitive bid” to secure the event’s exclusive rights after the media tender went out.

The telco readily shouldered the responsibility of broadcasting a significant sporting event and upholding the potential impact it would have on the future.

“We went right back to basics and said, ‘Okay, what are we going to do to make sure that we play our role in making this [a] shared cultural moment?’,” Dickens said.

“We created a marketing campaign that was about empowerment, was about possibility, was about hope, and about inspiration… And the inspiration that will come from our fans, from change, from athletes and a whole generation of fans, especially young fans,” he continued.

Dickens on stage

“It’s a really powerful platform and something we were very excited about.”

Dickens revealed that over 100 production staff and 450 broadcast hours (across a 30-day period) went into bringing the games to the masses. Optus also chose to sublicense 15 of the biggest games to a free-to-air broadcaster.

“Not everyone is an Optus customer,” Dickens acknowledged. “And I just felt it was critically important for this cultural moment to be on all screens.”

More than 50% of Australia’s population witnessed the Matildas play in the World Cup, and while the longstanding popularity of football was most certainly a reason for people to tune in, Dickens said “it was that cultural moment” that made people gather around public screens across the country.

“I think we all know the impact of the shared cultural moment,” Dickens said. “Whether it’s the direct economic impact or the indirect impact, there’s a lasting legacy for women’s football, for…major events, and for the country overall.”

Nowadays, Optus’ approach to spotlighting women in football is remarkably simple.

“We market football. We don’t market men’s football or women’s football. We market football,” he stated.

The Matildas also play a role in the company’s promotional materials, highlighting how they’re multi-faceted players beyond their gold and green kits.

The Matildas

“We use [our] marketing platform to point out our amazing Matildas,” Dickens explained.

“Or your World Cup superstars playing in club football all over the world. Whether it’s here in Australia, in the US, in the UK, or in France.

“So these icons, they put on the Matilda shirt, and they’re icons. But week in, week out, they play for Chelsea, they play for Arsenal, they play for Lyon. And that’s how we market. Week in, week out, you can now experience these icons.”

For Dickens, the takeaway lesson from being a part of Australian sporting history can be summed up in four words: “Long-term planning and strategy.”

“It was a four-to-five-year project to get to [the World Cup]. It was all about making sure that we could find ways to ignite the audience interest beyond just premium football and the event.

“And of course, they [the Matildas] did us proud on that day. And we’ll always remember where we were, Wednesday the 12th of August, 2023, at 7:30pm when Cortnee Vine [scored the winning goal].”


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