Heineken Tackles Gender Bias in Soccer

The Dutch brewer has put in motion plans to address gender discrimination in soccer with a new website and marketing ad campaign.
Jacqueline Barba
Digital Editor
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Heineken has put in motion a new direction for its sponsorship in soccer, making its entire campaign across both the men's and women's game about tackling gender bias affecting players and fans of the sport.

According to a 2020 survey by Women in Football about discrimination in sports, two-thirds of women in soccer have experienced gender discrimination. With that in mind, Heineken is evolving its sponsorships in the sport to address the uneven playing field when it comes to gender by highlighting some of the ways that women are treated.

Heineken's first move in tackling the gender bias is to address inaccurate statistics present across the internet that are often the source of the prejudice, according to a news release from the Dutch brewer. To challenge the algorithms and search mechanics of key websites, Heineken has unveiled “Fresher Football,” a new website in partnership with Goal to offer correct responses to popular questions asked online about the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, where answers tend to overlook key data around the women's game.

Fresher Football aims to encourage search engines and fan sites to recognize the discrepancies and amend current information to the accurate answers, regardless of gender.

To achieve this, Heineken has committed to intercepting online searches, buying key Google AdWords around popular soccer questions, and correcting the current answers with accurate statistics based on the men's and women's game, allowing female achievements in the sport to be celebrated and not forgotten.

In addition, Heineken has created a new television commercial (TVC) and digital campaign, entitled “Cheers to All Fans, Men Included,” highlighting the misconception that one must be a man to be a soccer fan. The video ad (view below) features men and women fans throughout, including a woman sneaking to the bathroom during a date to check the score of a sports game, while another screams loudly with friends in the living room. The campaign aims to rewrite the stereotype and show the reality that gender doesn't dictate someone's passion for soccer.

Heineken will also be partnering with its first woman soccer ambassador through its partnership with English soccer legend and broadcaster, Alex Scott. Scott, who was a part of Arsenal's 2007 UEFA Women's Cup winning team, is featured within Heineken's marketing collateral alongside current brand ambassador, Thierry Henry, to promote the importance of equality within the sport.

"Heineken is a brand for the fans and we've always been passionate about bringing people together to celebrate the things they love,” said Bram Westenbrink, global head Heineken brand, in the release. “Now, on our journey to improve inclusivity in [soccer] through our sponsorships, we're committed to ensuring the sport is a safe and welcoming space for everyone."

Heineken has been a partner of the UEFA Women's Champions League and UEFA Women's Euros since 2021, when the brand made the decision to mirror its men's and women's sponsorships across both soccer and motorsport.

“We are delighted to see our long-standing partner Heineken taking a bold stance with their campaign to support women's [soccer],” said Nadine Keßler, UEFA's chief of women's football. "UEFA has set up the UEFA Women's Euro and UEFA Women's Champions League competitions to not only showcase the best of the women's game, but to engage the next generation of players and fans. Heineken's campaign will help promote the importance of equality in the sport and we look forward to supporting them with their movement."