Brand Strategy

How Ally made the biggest men’s sports event of the year about women

The financial services company brought more than 100 marketing and sports leaders together during the Super Bowl to talk about investing in women’s sports.
article cover

Screenshot via Ally/YouTube

· 4 min read

Ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, a group of more than 100 CMOs, media execs, and leaders from sports teams and leagues like the NWSL, MLS, and Nascar met for lunch at a pop-up restaurant in Las Vegas to discuss something other than the big game.

Instead, participants were focused on the women’s game—not just women’s football, but women’s sports across the board, and how brands are evaluating their investments in the growing space.

The VIP event was jointly orchestrated by women’s sports agency Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment and Ally Financial, one of the companies that’s been at the forefront of the push to further monetize women’s sports with initiatives like its 50/50 pledge to achieve equal media spending on men’s and women’s sports by 2027.

“It would be incredible to be able to host the same luncheon at the NWSL championship, or the WNBA championship, and we will be doing that as we progress forward,” Stephanie Marciano, head of sports and entertainment marketing at Ally, told Marketing Brew. “But right now, and for the last decade, marketing executives, folks in front offices, media execs, they show up at the Super Bowl whether or not they’re in football…so for us, it was, ‘we need to be there.’”

Done deal?

The Super Bowl might not be an informal upfront in the way CES is, but media buyers and sellers do tend to engage in business conversations as they mingle at meetings and parties over the week leading up to the game, Marciano said. Ally set out to be a “positively disruptive” force in those conversations, she told us.

The event featured conversations with leaders in women’s sports marketing, including Marciano, Deep Blue founder Laura Correnti, Deep Blue’s chief strategy officer (and WNBA legend) Sue Bird, andNikki Fargas, president of the Las Vegas Aces. About half of the attendees already “believe[d] in the fact that women’s sports is great for business,” Marciano said. The other half of the crowd was likely less experienced in women’s sports, but interested in learning more, she said.

Fargas and some Aces players in attendance spoke about “the need for more storytelling and visibility and access to continue to expedite the growth of this business,” Marciano said, and she shared learnings from Ally’s 50/50 pledge.

“The Super Bowl provides a very diversified audience of leaders,” she told us. “They could feel our energy and our inspiration…and came out of that with maybe some motivation to learn more and to potentially invest.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.

Marciano said she didn’t think anyone was actually inking deals in the room, but noted that she participated in and witnessed “a lot of great conversations” that included brand execs.

Side of streaming

The luncheon wasn’t Ally’s only Super Bowl play. The brand also ran its first Super Bowl ad this year—although instead of opting for a national broadcast placement on CBS, the financial services company placed the spot on Paramount+.

“Our target audiences are millennial and Gen Z consumers, and their consumption habits continue to change more toward streaming platforms,” Marciano said. “So we’re not only reaching the audience at scale, but we’re reaching the right consumers at scale.”

The ad, which aired on linear channels as well, directed viewers to a website where they could enter a sweepstakes with 58 winners (a nod to Super Bowl 58) and a grand prize of $50,000. The Ally team was “very happy with the viewership numbers” on the ad, Marciano said, and as of Feb. 26, the sweepstakes had more than 80,000 entries. The matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers was the most-streamed Super Bowl ever, led by the Paramount+ audience.

Watch this space

Ally has more sports marketing initiatives in the pipeline coming off the Super Bowl. Earlier this month, the company announced a partnership with the United States Golf Association, and it’s also planning on “entering the WNBA in a big way” this year, Marciano said. The W already has a banking sponsor in U.S. Bank, so she said Ally’s plans aren’t at the league level; she declined to share more details.

While Ally doesn’t have official Olympic partnership status, the brand plans to activate around Paris 2024 via emerging media platforms like its previous work with Re—Inc and Just Women’s Sports, and via its athlete partners, Marciano said, similar to its work last summer around the Women’s World Cup. Ally is also “sharing playbooks with other brands,” she added.

“That’s what expedites growth,” Marciano said. “The whole ‘rising tide lifts all boats,’ that is critically important in women’s sports.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.