Although not playing the anticipated role of sponsored property, the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Assn. has forged a relationship that demonstrates the impact sports and athletes can have in shining a spotlight and drawing attention to a partner.
In March of last year, the union announced an agreement with Kiva, an international nonprofit crowdfunding platform that provides loans between $1,000 and $15,000 to entrepreneurs in underserved communities across the globe who might not have access to traditional funding. About 81 percent of Kiva’s borrowers are women.
Through the Kiva USWNTPA Impact Fund, the association committed to deploying $2.5 million in zero-fee, zero-interest financial assistance to more than 400 U.S. businesses over four years, with a focus on women entrepreneurs. The union matches every loan to the enterprises highlighted on Kiva’s USWNTPA page and also has provided credits of up to $100 for players, members of supporters’ groups such as American Outlaws and other fans to make loans to Kiva borrowers of their choice.
With additional goals of increasing brand recognition and awareness for Kiva, as well as bringing new donors to the platform, the partners activate the Impact program by aligning funding opportunities with upcoming markets where the USWNT is scheduled to play. Loan recipients in those markets are recognized at each match, driving further visibility of the program in front of a highly targeted audience.
By the end of 2022, the program blew through its four-year goal of supporting 400 enterprises in four years, supporting 1,384 borrowers. The goal has since been revised to support 3,000 entrepreneurs by 2025.
The program also spawned additional organizational support, as Everywoman Studios and Change Content—the filmmakers behind the feature documentary, LFG, which tells the story of the USWNTPA’s fight for equal pay—launched a Friends of the USWNT Players Association Impact Fund with $50,000 last summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
The program’s first-year success was enough to earn it the distinction of being named this week the Best JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and/or Inclusion) Initiative of the year at the Engage for Good Halo Awards for outstanding corporate social impact engagement efforts.
Even though in this case the USWNTPA is not helping to sell apparel, cars, beer or any other official products, the Impact program’s success reinforces for sponsors of U.S. Soccer, women’s sports and sports in general just how compelling a promotional platform sports can be.