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NWSL: UKG cashes in on Challenge Cup

Soccer

May 09, 2022
SOURCE: ANDY MEAD/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: ANDY MEAD/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Last Friday — a day before the North Carolina Courage won the Challenge Cup — the NWSL revealed a win of its own, announcing a multiyear, multimillion-dollar Challenge Cup title sponsor deal with workforce tech company UKG.

  • A core piece of the partnership? Increasing player bonuses to achieve pay equity as part of UKG’s Close the Gap Initiative, a project aiming to combat gender pay disparities across various industries. *cue applause*

The details: UKG already increased 2022 player bonuses tenfold — up to a life-changing $10K for each Cup-winner. Next year, the brand will double the prize pool to $1 million, matching the bonuses of the men’s equivalent U.S. Open Cup. The move will make the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup the first U.S. women’s soccer tourney to reach parity.

  • The company also struck sponsorship deals with two players — Angel City FC’s Christen Press and the Orlando Pride’s Sydney Leroux. Both strikers will join UKG in advocating for pay equity in every industry, not just in sports.

Zooming out: The NWSL launched the Challenge Cup in 2020 as a creative, pandemic-era, return-to-play solution and quickly turned it into valuable inventory.

  • It’s now a teaser to the league’s top product — the regular season. Setting the multimillion-dollar price tag on the NWSL’s secondary offering could increase the value of ad and media partnerships for the main event.
  • Between the UKG deal and broadcast wins, this year’s Challenge Cup was quite the warmup for the league’s landmark 10th year.