How Xero grew its global brand exposure by aligning with FIFA’s Women’s World Cup 2023.

Xero’s partnership with FIFA is one of the largest a New Zealand brand has embarked on in the sports realm. James Kyd, Global Head of Brand Strategy and Marketing at Xero, reflects on how it all started at the Women’s World Cup in 2019.

While on a business trip back in 2019, James Kyd had the privilege of watching a Women’s World Cup (WWC) game and was overwhelmed by the buzz and engagement of the fans. He felt it was special.

As a pioneer in the finance world, Xero is always looking to the next game-changing event, and James felt that sports marketing would be the right fit.

“I just thought that it was curious and interesting. It looked like a good market and we're always keeping our eye on what's happening and how people are behaving. But it definitely left a big impression on me,” James says.

After it was announced the WWC 2023 would be held in Australia and New Zealand, James reached out to FIFA to express his interest in sponsorship opportunities.

The appeal for Xero? The WWC 2019 had an audience reach of over one billion viewers, which led James to consult his strategic guidance engine – Google – to research top Women's football rankings around the world. These rankings aligned with markets that were a key focus for Xero.

  • US - 1
  • Canada - 2
  • England - 4
  • Australia - 12
  • New Zealand - 22

Xero also had a business challenge of growing its brand exposure in the Northern Hemisphere, and during his research James noticed that there were markets that aligned with women’s football.

Armed with this knowledge, Xero embarked on a journey of building a strategic business case around the WWC 2023 and identifying how this partnership was relevant to its communities and audiences.

Building a business case

Xero shared FIFA’s commitment and values-based approach to supporting women’s football communities. Being able to build visibility in international markets while creating deeper relationships was of paramount importance to Xero.

“We embarked on a journey of building a proper business case around FIFA and doing some of our own research to really understand how it was relevant to our communities and our audiences. And we engaged with some amazing partners to help on this work,” says James.

Xero assessed three key areas for sponsorship opportunities. The first was evaluating its potential brand growth and brand equity, and gaining an understanding how this could drive training within its key markets.

The second required Xero to have a strong understanding of how its FIFA partnership would connect with its audiences and support the growth of its communities.

The third was an understanding of how to maximise Xero’s return on investment, ensuring its shareholders and small businesses benefited from its growth.

In terms of pulling it all together, James comments, “You’ve got to have the right business case, and to make sure it's connected with your values. You really must have that connection built, and then leverage a trusted expert.”

Creating a Xero and FIFA community

Community is of the utmost importance to Xero, and the organisation believes in the power of women’s football and small business communities.

When it comes to women in small businesses, it’s much harder to access capital than for men. So Xero anchored its vision and partnership around these key issues by working to empower women in business.

Roughly 70% of women's football clubs globally operate at a loss1, and Xero wanted to provide women’s football clubs with the same avenues and opportunities as men’s. By partnering with FIFA, Xero will have a strong involvement in fundamental development programs for women’s clubs. And it will provide financial software to strengthen their success.

“We really do feel passionately about our values and the purpose we have as an organisation. So, we said, can we find some real alignment of our values and purpose? And it wasn't too hard to find that small businesses and women in small businesses are a massive growth area at the moment,” James explains.

Xero further leveraged its relationship with accountants and bookkeepers by enabling them to work together with their local women’s football clubs, helping them learn and develop skills to strengthen their financial wellbeing. The business also worked closely with Kiwi athletes at the top of their game to launch a community football fund, aimed at boosting the prosperity of 15 women’s sports teams across the globe.

On creating brand value, James says, “It was really important for us that we have the right foundation. Doing so will mean it’s going to be meaningful, significant and will enrich our values and communities.”

1. AP News, 70% of women’s football clubs operate at a loss, 27/5/2021