History was made both on and off the pitch at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC).

The competition exceeded expectations, with unprecedented audience figures showing new heights of global interest. The UK TV reach for the 2019 tournament was 17.2 million – a huge increase on the 12.4 million audience recorded in Canada, 2015.

Unsurprisingly, the most watched game was the Holland vs. US final as 4.7 million viewers tuned in. The most viewed game of the 2015 tournament – a play-off between England and Germany – had a viewing audience of just 2.4 million.

Moreover, it wasn’t just TV screens that engaged large audiences in 2019.

Over the month-long tournament (7 June–7 July), REDTORCH reported 1.5 million new fansacross official event accounts: Facebook and Twitter (FIFA Women’s World Cup), Instagram (FIFA World Cup) and YouTube (FIFATV).

The 432 FIFA Women’s World Cup athletes we analysed on Instagram recorded 14 million new fans across their combined personal accounts: a staggering average increase of 85.10% in followers.

How did FIFA engage with this influx of women’s football fans on Instagram?

We looked at what they did well and came up with these 5 lessons.

1. Use a consistent hashtag 

The consistent use of a simple hashtag brings tangible benefits when linked to continuous exposure across every social channel.

Following each game, the FIFA World Cup Instagram account posted a picture of the Player of the Match (sponsored by Visa) receiving their award. With this, they rolled out a #PlayeroftheMatch hashtag series. These posts performed well, receiving 10% more engagements than the average post.

2. Engage on a local level   

Connect with your fans in a personal way and they will keep coming back for more.   

Instagram posts about specific teams often had captions written in the featured team’s native language. This showed that FIFA knew its target audience, engaged with them appropriately, and tailored content to grab their attention.

3. Lead with targeted content   

Audiences engage more with content that has a focus.  

Although FIFA also posted generically, a majority of their content had a focal feature. It targeted its audience and gave them what they wanted to see.  Teamspecific posts proved much more popular than neutral ones that mentioned two or more sides.

4. Ask for engagement

If you want engagement from your audience, just ask. It really is that straightforward.  

The most commented-on organic post throughout the competition (i.e. one not boosted with advertising) asked for a prediction of the fulltime score of the Holland vs. US final. While other posts generated an average of 180 comments per post, this one attracted over 3,600 comments.

Enough said!

5. Support your star athletes  

Unsurprisingly, posts about big names and controversial characters perform best.

The most liked organic post on the FIFA World Cup Instagram was of Megan Rapinoe, the US Women’s National Team forward and World Cup winner. The image of Rapinoe celebrating generated 6 times more likes than the average post!

Rapinoe and her team used the World Cup platform to discuss equal pay in football. This, hand-in-hand with her feud with President Trump, hit the headlines. The publicity, and her remarkable performance on the pitch (she won the Tournament’s Golden Boot award), made Rapinoe a WWC superstar.  

FIFA recognised that the world was talking about Rapinoe and generated content about her that stimulated further discussion and engagement. 

FIFA’s WWC Instagram campaign indicated that engagement comes by doing the simple things right. Although not necessarily ground-breaking, these tactics proved extremely effective when done well.

To sum up: do the basics well, connect with your audience in the right way, and increased engagement is sure to follow.


Photo credit: Getty via The Independent