The USWNT is going to get paid during this World Cup, but not by US Soccer. Instead, Luna Bar has made a $718,750 donation to the USWNT Players Association, to be divided up 23 ways among the players who make the World Cup roster, making for an individual payment of $31,250 each to bring each player level with what the MNT roster bonus would be for making a World Cup.
The deal was apparently in the works since late last year, culminating in a presentation to the USWNT PA on February 19, according to ESPN.
There are a couple of things to think about here. Yes, it is very cool of Luna to front such a huge chunk of change, no questions asked, apparently no quid pro quo, except for the visibility boost they get to their brand (which is absolutely not nothing here). But the word “donation” really rubs the wrong way - the USWNT are not a charity case, and neither is women’s soccer. Why not at the very least call this an “investment,” if only in the metaphorical sense of investing in the future of the women’s game by becoming an example?
Or why not turn this into a sponsorship opportunity? Luna is willing to make a 3⁄4 million dollar donation, but not commit to a multi-year sponsorship? Undoubtedly a sponsorship would cost them more money, but it would also speak to their stated desire of “inspiring and championing women” and bring them the brand recognition they want to position themselves at the forefront of female consumers’ minds.
Even if Luna didn’t want to make a multi-million sponsorship commitment with USSF, they probably could have made a smaller but even more impactful deal with NWSL. It’s slightly troubling that NWSL doesn’t have more sponsorships than it does - talk about an entire league absolutely brimming with perfect brand ambassadors. From a purely business perspective, NWSL shouldn’t be that hard a sell, and a $700k sponsorship deal would have a real impact for a league that is trying to elbow their way into the greater sports landscape. I don’t want to discount that NWSL management may simply be inept at pursuing sponsorships, but what a missed opportunity for Luna to make a lasting, meaningful commitment to women’s sports. WNT players deserve to be paid equally for their work, but NWSL is helping to create a foundation for the game that will help future WNT players for cycles to come.
Luna is a business, and obviously they want to make a splash with their announcement, getting the biggest faces of American women’s soccer to talk about this money on Equal Pay Day. This can be a real gesture of solidarity with women in the workplace and a calculated move to enhance their brand at the same time. But if Luna Bar is really serious about making a commitment to doing right by underpaid female athletes, NWSL is right there.