Cannes Lions

The 12th Woman

COW, London / HEINEKEN / 2023

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England was hosting the UEFA Women’s Euros in the summer of 2022 with Heineken as an Official Partner. For the tournament, we wanted to present a fresh perspective on fan support, to be the most inclusive sponsor and to start a movement that fans could join in with. Rather than shame 'traditionalists' we wanted to bring them on board.


- Drive awareness of Heineken’s sponsorship of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 and its ongoing mission to tackle the unconscious bias and gender inequality that still permeates football culture

- Create an affirmative supporter-focused campaign to run for the duration of the tournament

- Deliver mass earned media coverage that sparked social conversation and rallied support for women in football

- Make Heineken the most inclusive sponsor of the UEFA Women’s Euros 2022


We started by inventing 'The 12th Woman’ as a concept. A simple, inclusive flip on a generic term for passionate fans. One that allowed people of all genders to show their support for the women on the pitch and for the women’s game. And they could amplify that with a Heineken / UEFA Euros brand t-shirt.

The t-shirt would be more than just a prop for celebrities and influencers. It was made available for the public to purchase via Amazon for £12. All proceeds went to the Women in Football charity - recruited as partners for the campaign to support the development of the women's game at grassroots level.

The campaign had to be much bigger to cut through the noise around the tournament. The result was an integrated campaign with a launch and ongoing sustain activity across earned media, social, influencer, live events, thought leadership and Heineken internal comms.


Despite the boom in awareness and professionalism of the women’s game, there remained stigma and stereotyping in football culture. With research revealing 2 in 3 of women in football have experienced gender discrimination, Heineken is on a mission to evolve our sponsorships in the sport to address the uneven playing field when it comes to gender.

While the women’s game has grown massively, a legacy of masculine terms such as the ‘The 12th Man’ continue to dominate. 'The 12th Man' refers to the collective power of supporters to drive on their team. Yet the term 'The 12th Woman' had barely even been used in supporter lexicon. We decided to change that. Fans of all genders could be the 12th Woman.

We worked with an eclectic range of ambassadors and influencers from football and culture to create content around the message and the shirt, through earned, paid social and live events.


Launch: Heineken partnered with an eclectic, unlikely group of football and entertainment personalities – 'traditional' football manager Harry Redknapp; former England international and BBC presenter, Jermaine Jenas; former England women's star Karen Carney, comedian Ellie Taylor and presenter AJ Odudu – to be ‘12th Woman’ ambassadors (combined social reach 14,000,000).

They featured in a 60-second video that showed them traveling together to watch a women’s international game.

Earned media and social: The content was syndicated to national, lifestyle and sports media for earned coverage, along with interview opportunities with our ambassadors, staggered across the tournament - and amplified on their social channels.

T-shirts were sent to fashion correspondents in news and lifestyle media to drive sales.

Influencers: T-shirts seeded to 13 TikTok+Instagram creators

Live events: T-shirts were gifted to fans at all England matches and Heineken brand screenings to increase visibility on TV and UGC content across the tournament.


From a base of almost zero, and launched on national TV show Good Morning Britain, 'The 12th Woman' term slipped into usage by fans and TV/radio commentators across the tournament - with the t-shirt worn by Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes during a CNN interview on the eve of the final.

Coverage: 85 national and international news and lifestyle features

Reach: 1.85 billion

7,000+ t-shirts sold raising £50,000+ for Women In Football to fund a Women In Football Mentorship programme.

Marked improvement in key brand perceptions amongst women:

‘a great brand for me’: 56% +10pts

‘a creative brand’: 48% +20pts

‘an innovative brand’: 50%, +16pts

All genders:

'Heineken challenges the stereotype that football belongs only to men' 68%, +22pts

#1 brand associated with the Women’s Euros 2022


The legacy of this campaign was more than normalising the term 'The 12th Woman'. Sales of the t-shirts funded a longer-term Women in Football Mentorship Programme.

11 selected female mentees selected to receive the following support to create new leaders in women's football :

• 3 month mentoring programme and access to ongoing support

• Official accreditation from Oxford Brookes University

• Access to an online mentoring training platform

Heineken Internal Communications: Green Table Talks co-hosted by the Heineken brand and the Heineken Women & Allies Network. Company-wide agenda.

x3 recorded 10 min episodes broadcast to the entire business. Each episode included a panel of internal colleagues, across the entire business, discussing gender and inclusivity in sport.

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