By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Cosmetics company Avon has become the first female-focused brand to sponsor an FA Women's Super League club, signing a deal with Liverpool Ladies Football Club.
Most women's teams connected with professional clubs tend to wear the same sponsored shirts as the men's team but Avon believes it can reach a female audience with the three-year deal.
"The teams and professionals we have spoken to on this journey are truly inspirational women, working together to achieve their goals, and we are very excited to be sponsoring Liverpool Ladies Football Club and supporting the women through all of their future successes," said Andrea Slater, general manager of Avon UK.
No financial details of the partnership were released in the announcement by Liverpool and Avon.
The Liverpool sponsorship follows the BBC's decision earlier this month to broadcast the Spring Series of the Women's Super League and create a regular highlights programme, The Women's Football Show.
Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford, told Reuters that the Liverpool deal with Avon was highly significant.
"For the first time you have a high-profile brand, targeted principally at women, sponsoring a women's football team. The deal effectively signals women's football stepping out of the shadows of men's football, rather than simply mimicking or mirroring the men's game," he said.
In recent years a number of top Premier League clubs, such as Manchester City and Chelsea, have made increased commitments to their women's team. City recently signed Women's World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd, the U.S. international.
"The fact that football clubs are really starting to take their women's teams seriously shows that we are in a new era for the game. The related influx of television and sponsorship revenues is contributing to the emergence of this new era," said Chadwick, who believes the growing business interest in the game is not only a marketing opportunity.
"The fact that they are investing is not only a vote of confidence in the women's game but it is also implicit acknowledgment that there is money to be made in the women's game," he said.
The Spring Series kicks off this weekend. Previously a summer competition, the two-division Super League will switch to a standard autumn to spring season from this year.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Neil Robinson)