There’s a direct link between supporting women in sports and empowering them to succeed in business. Seeing women athletes excel on an international stage inspires athletic success; by the same token, spotlighting women entrepreneurs can compel other women in business to reach new heights of their own.
According to a survey of 5,000 adults and 2,250 small business owners in 10 markets conducted by Wakefield Research for Visa, 82 per cent of women-owned small businesses believe that participating in sports impacts a person’s success in business. In other words, tackling adversity on the field isn’t so different from overcoming the barriers and challenges of running a small business.
This connection is now even stronger with programs that straddle both fields. Building on its rich history of supporting women in sport, Visa – the first global partner of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – is both celebrating and elevating women in business and inviting soccer fans to get involved. As female athletes take centre stage during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Visa will uplift women-led small businesses from those athletes’ communities around the world.
Heather Nobes, VP of marketing for Visa Canada, says that its research into the connection between business and sports reinforces Visa’s core values of empowering women on and off the field. “It supports what we already know and believe,” she says of the data. “It creates this ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ mentality among not only Canadian girls, but everybody. And that’s really a big part of why we sponsor athletes, and why we do everything we can to promote them and give them a platform.”
This year, Visa is sponsoring 33 women footballers across 27 markets, including Canada’s iconic team captain Christine Sinclair and world-class defender Ashley Lawrence. Visa is also a national sponsor of Canada Soccer and Canada’s Women’s National team.
But that’s just the beginning of the company’s efforts to inspire future generations of women on and off the field. One of Visa’s programs, the Player of the Match award, enables FIFA fans across the globe to vote for their favourite athletes to be MVP of each match they play on the FIFA site.
In the process of awarding an athlete the Visa Player of the Match trophy, fans will also be rewarding women-led businesses from the team country in grant dollars. The Visa Player of the Match business grants range from $5,000 for group-stage matches to $50,000 for the final.
The Visa Canada team made a bold decision that they feel resonates in their market – every time a Canadian National Team athlete was awarded the Visa Player of the Match through fan votes, Canadians were also supporting Indigenous women-led businesses through Visa Canada’s identified grant recipient, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB).
Nobes explains that Visa Canada invested $25,000 as an initial grant to CCAB, opening the door for them to receive even more through the program. “CCAB will identify the Indigenous women-run businesses that will receive support from the grant funding. This does a lot for them; it advances economic reconciliation, and it also contributes to the communities that these women-owned businesses support.”
What’s more, Visa promoted both the winning player and the women-led business recipient through marketing efforts to ensure that talented female athletes and business leaders get their deserved recognition.
These Visa Player of the Match business grants tie into the work Visa has been doing with its She’s Next program, through which Visa Canada has already awarded 50 female entrepreneurs with grant money and mentorship to elevate and scale their businesses.
Noting that women often face disproportionate challenges when starting a business, securing funding and accessing further resources that are necessary to grow, Nobes explains the crucial importance and impact of these endowments.
“The Visa Player of the Match and She’s Next grants and corresponding access to world-class mentorship – it’s just one small way that we can uplift women entrepreneurs and founders and enable these women to connect with one another and the small business community,” she says.
Nobes adds that while the funding can kick-start businesses, entrepreneurs deeply value the mentorship and connections made through the She’s Next program. Visa also offers a range of self-serve small business tools and resources, and makes these available to all Canadian business owners.
“We are constantly looking for ways that we can connect our individual programs to our broader purpose to uplift everyone, everywhere and help individuals and businesses thrive,” Nobes says. “When we looked at our exceptional Team Visa athletes, we saw an opportunity to connect how we support women athletes, and how we can further support women-led businesses. And I’m thrilled to see it come together.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Visa. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.