The impact of the Netball World Cup on digital channels
01. Introduction and context
The Netball World Cup 2023 was a major success for the England Roses both on and off the court. History was made with the Roses reaching their first-ever World Cup final, and successes were matched by their performance online.
- Interest in participation soared at a 269% increase in users visiting the ENgage website, the hub of England Netball’s participation programmes
- Over 3.6 million impressions were generated from the online noise from external channels
- England Netball’s total earned media value from the World Cup was £74.8m
- More than three-quarters of a million engagements on England Netball’s channels during the period of the World Cup
- Viewership of the Netball Final leads the way ahead of rugby and cricket
- An increase in demand for tickets and memberships further reflects the positive impact
“The Vitality Roses inspired the nation with their on-court heroics in the summer and it’s a testament to the team that netball enjoyed such an incredible moment and record levels of visibility. As a result, more people than ever engaged and took notice of our sport and we are working really hard to capitalise on this success to move the dial, to improve opportunities for people to get on court and to take our sport to new heights.” – Fran Connolly, Chief Executive Officer, England Netball
The World Cup undoubtedly had a positive impact digitally, and whilst the performance on the court absolutely helped this, the reactive nature of the team helped capitalise on the opportunities the World Cup provided.
Overall impact in numbers
World Cup Final pulls in high viewership
The Netball World Cup final attracted a UK TV average audience of 858k, with a peak audience of 1.27m. 7.5% of the UK TV audience were watching the World Cup final. When comparing BBC women’s sports broadcasts, netball is ahead of rugby and cricket broadcasts in terms of viewership numbers. The Netball World Cup final attracted almost double the TV viewers than The Hundred final.
Average Audience By Programme (UK TV)
02. Social Media
Women’s sport lives on TikTok
- England Netball saw a 10% (combined) follower growth across their social media channels between the 26th July – 9th August
- This was largely driven by TikTok and Instagram channels which would follow the trend that these two platforms are pivotal for the growth of women’s sports channels
- In addition, the number of England Netball TikTok followers has overtaken the number of YouTube subscribers, further confirming the strong potential of TikTok. Especially given England Netball’s TikTok account is still a fairly young channel
The highest increase in Instagram followers
- Over the period of the World Cup, England Netball overtook Netball Australia in followers on Instagram, to become the most followed national netball team on the platform
- The largest growth in England Netball followers was observed on the 5th August when over 5,000 new fans followed England Netball. This coincided with England’s 46-40 victory over New Zealand
Followers Change on Instagram
World Cup delivered across all metrics
- To better illustrate the impact of World Cup on social media metrics*, we selected and compared it with a period of time without any international fixtures, which we will refer to as the ‘Regular period’ and the January 2023 International series against Jamaica, that we will refer to as the ‘International series’
- Looking at the specific channels, X (formerly Twitter) drove the most impressions for all periods, while Instagram generated the majority of the engagements
- Naturally, the impressions saw the biggest increase during the World Cup period. Same can be observed during the ‘International series’ period
Metrics performance comparison (by period)
Helen Housby leads the way
- Between the 14th July – 21st August 2023, the England Netball players cumulatively have seen +52k more followers added on Instagram, which represents an 18% increase in that time period
- The higher profile and reach of the athletes presents an opportunity for official channels to engage in social media collaborations. Additionally, the larger reach (from working with players) provides a more attractive proposition for potential new and current sponsors and broadcasters. The impact of the World Cup on the players’ accounts further confirmed the importance of players and the role they can play in growing the sport
Instagram followers by England Netball athlete
The online conversation was loud and clear
(Does not include EN channels)
We reviewed the overall sentiment during the World Cup. We analysed all posts that were created by non-England Netball official channels.
The outcome was overwhelmingly positive:
Over 3.6m impressions generated
Positive keywords used
Australia – featured in 2.5K posts
Congratulations – featured in 828 posts
History – featured in 1.8K
#englandroses – featured in 107 posts
#netballfamily – featured in 265 posts
#putyourhandsup – featured in 459 posts
UK drove majority of the output
- Most posts came from the UK with 20.1k posts over the course of the World Cup
- Australia and South Africa posted the second and third most as expected from the winners and the host country
Netball World Cup international posting overview
A steep incline in interest for netball
- Visits to the course and session finder pages on the England Netball website were 269% higher during the World Cup than was observed in the period leading up to the tournament (7th June – 27th July)
- There were approximately 278k more visits when compared to a time period without international fixtures
- The number of page visits hit its peak after the tournament finished, on the 14th August (41k)
Visits to course and session finder
NETBALLHer welcomes more users
- NETBALLHer, a women’s health initiative, powered by England Netball, which is an online library of resources for women and girls to understand the daily impact of women’s health saw an increase of users throughout the World Cup
- Impressions for the search term ‘England Netball’ increased by 492% from the previous International period in January On average, there was a 32% daily user increase of visitors to the website. England Netball took advantage of the World Cup to help deliver consistent messages around NETBALLHer
Users on NETBALLHER website
‘Netball related’ search terms increased exponentially
- Impressions for the search term ‘England Netball’ increased by 492% from the previous International period in January
- Six of the top 20 netball-related search terms during the World Cup were focused on the players / coach. As we saw with the increase in player profiles, fans want to know more about the players. Content should focus on education around this time for potential new fans
England Netball impressions
Netball popularity continues beyond World Cup
- Website visits to England Netball domain remains high post-World Cup vs the months leading up to the World Cup
- When comparing May to September there has been a 432% increase in daily users
Website visits (monthly median)
04. Commercial Impact
On court performance drives sales
- There was naturally a large spike in ticket sales once they were available on general sale
- However, the high-profile fixtures played by England in the Netball World Cup 2023 clearly led to an additional positive uptick in ticket sales
- This was specifically evident on the 5th and 6th August in which average ticket sales per day were +90% higher than the preceding 4 days (1st – 4th August)
Volume of ticket sales (versus South Africa)
Y-O-Y Increase in membership sales
- Compared to the same period in 2022, there was an average daily increase of 38% in y-o-y membership sales
- Aside from the first two days of renewals, the highest day of sales was on the day after the final, which shows the significant impact of the World Cup on encouraging membership purchases
Membership sales 2023
Over £74M in earned value generated
- The total earned value of the England Netball during the World Cup is £74.8m, with the majority driven by news coverage (online and print).
- Instagram generated the highest earned figure, over six times more than X (formerly Twitter), YouTube and TikTok combined, proving that Instagram is a valuable channel for England Netball when it comes to earned value
Over £20M generated for sponsor in media value
- The earned media value for Nike and Vitality, England Netball’s premium sponsors, during the World Cup was positive. With Vitality earning £10.5m in media value, and Nike £9.6m.
- Online news played the biggest role in driving that value, significantly more than social media.
Over £20M generated for sponsor in media value
On court performance drives sales
The World Cup came at a perfect time for England Netball, with women’s sports on a continued upward trajectory. Along with the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the online noise around women’s sports in England dominated the online space in the summer of 2023.
England Netball capitalised on the on-court success with ensuring their commercial objectives were front and centre of the majority of their delivery online. The return of these efforts resulted in significant increases across ticket sales, sponsorship value & participation.
As we have witnessed in women’s sport digital plays a huge part in the success. Every rightsholder, national and global governing bodies have to prepare in advance to amplify the success of the team and their athletes across digital, which will be a multiplier effect for monetisation.
The importance of big events in the sporting calendar cannot be underestimated when reaching new audiences. In fact, we believe that global sporting events for women’s sports has been the catalyst for its growth. Whilst, sporting organisations shouldn’t rely on them, it’s cruicial to capitalise on the opportunities that are generated from the international stage.
About IMG’s Digital Team
IMG’s team of digital experts is working with some of the biggest names in global sport, including the NFL, NHL, Red Bull Racing, The R&A, AIG Women’s Open, Irish Rugby (IRFU), Munster Rugby, and Rugby League, to help them reach new audiences, grow deeper relationships with fans and build sustainable commercial models. Its end-to-end digital services include digital content creation, technology optimization and commercial guidance on how to unlock new digital revenue streams. Formerly known as Seven League, IMG’s digital team was officially integrated into the company when its parent company, Endeavor, acquired Mailman and Seven League in 2021.
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