Sports Marketing: TikTok at Watford FC Women

July 6, 2023

Watford FC Women team

Three weeks into my role as Online Marketing Assistant and I’ve been at the mercy of honing my skills at Google Ads and SEO here at Signify Digital. I took this role to further my interest in digital marketing which I developed by taking two modules around the subject at university. But I haven’t always been knee-deep in keywords and ad groups (and table tennis). My four-year course at NTU allowed me to take a placement year, which I did as Marketing Assistant at Watford Football Club, learning a whole lot about sports marketing.

My first role in the industry saw me spread across all things football marketing for The Hornets; social media, email communications, ticket sales and so much more. Fuelled by my passion for football – despite not being in a position at my true love West Ham United – I was ready to take on whatever challenges were thrown my way, which I got in the form of leading the Watford FC Women’s in their sports marketing endeavours.

The Golden Girls

While brushing shoulders with some of Watford’s biggest names, I was ready to get stuck in with my new project. Watford FC Women, aka The Golden Girls, at the time, was a newly promoted team to the FA Women’s Championship, the second tier of women’s football in England, who hosted the likes of Liverpool FC, Sheffield United, and Crystal Palace FC.

It wasn’t the first time the side had been at this level – and I’m sure not the last – with seasoned veteran and Wales legend Helen Ward captaining the side. At the time I wondered how I was going to tackle this as a freshly faced third-year university student, but I knew it was going to be a massive leap in my learning curve, and I had the belief I could bring fresh ideas to the club.

Two months into my new responsibilities – which is about three managers in Watford’s men’s time – it became a reality that the challenge I was embarking on was going to be one with little financial backing, purely due to the size of the team. Social media was at the forefront of the devised plan that I brainstormed with my incredible colleagues, which I learnt an equally incredible amount of knowledge from.

Taking On TikTok

Already established on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube – the social media marketing stalwarts – we wanted to find new ways to diversify the team. TikTok had blown up in the years before I joined, piggybacked off the reality of everyone locked up in their houses during the pandemic.

Football clubs had mastered it though. Up and down the country teams were bantering with each other before and after each matchday, which had rarely been seen in club communications before, other than the odd dig on Twitter. Football fans loved it, and Watford was arguably top of the TikTok leaderboard for football clubs, a first for them.

TikTok had to be utilised by The Golden Girls, but with no previous experience in the art of content creation and video making, I rushed into following the footsteps of the men’s side. That meant following trends and attempting to banter with other teams. However, being the first women’s side to have a dedicated TikTok page, the time put in didn’t amount to the desired results as fans weren’t knowledgeable about the women’s side of football.

Access to the players was much more achievable than the men’s side, and so we set about creating more personalised content that involved the players and highlighted key moments from games. Although it took some convincing to get players in front of cameras, we were finally able to see some fruitful results.

Videos were consistently reaching thousands, if not tens of thousands of views, with a peak of 3.3 million. We figured out the key to success, and despite not working at the club anymore I’m glad to see the sports marketing content is still leading the way for the women’s game on social media.

Season Highlights

Relegation later in the 2021/22 season was disappointing, but we had other successes. Vicarage Road Stadium hosted the Golden Girls throughout the season, it was a stark contrast to the often water-logged home pitch, and with various holiday-themed entertainment aimed at attracting families, local schools, and football teams we were able to break the attendance record on two separate occasions.

Furthermore, attributed to unique video content, stunning graphic design, and consistent matchday communications the social media following grew by nearly 75%. Some personal favourite campaigns included Helen Ward’s 100 Wales appearances, in which famous faces such as Gareth Bale and Rob Page congratulated the Welsh legend, and International Women’s Day which incorporated and inspired girls from many local schools.

Nathan filming TikTok content at Watford FC Women's football ground

Now at Signify Digital, I can’t wait to challenge myself to continue my learning across new industries and try to bring my sports marketing ideas to a new team. TikTok included, our social media teams create engaging and strategic social media content through paid and organic posts that are intrinsically linked to your brand to deliver high-performing results. Get in touch today.

Nathan came to Signify with a background in football marketing working in Premier League football clubs and women’s football. With a passion for both the creative and the analytical sides of marketing, he supports the team across PPC, SEO and Social Media campaigns. Out of the office Nathan is very sporty, taking part and watching club football and cricket, and struggling on the golf course (his words!)
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