Sydney Morning Herald raises its game with FIFA Women’s World Cup coverage

By Sophia Phan

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Feedback from mainstream media in the past has highlighted the lack of airtime women’s sports and sporting achievements receive. Our social team, together with our reporters around the country, aimed to challenge that narrative.

Given the popularity of the Matildas in Australia, and the fact that we were the host country for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we knew it was a prime opportunity to celebrate the sport and the brilliance of our national football team.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and Brisbane Times provided comprehensive, creative, and engaging coverage of the Matildas’ exhilarating campaign as both a sports event and cultural phenomenon.

We wanted to report the Women’s World Cup as an event and news story like every other sports story: the players’ backgrounds, team strategies, match analysis, match and player ratings, crowd colour. We wanted to celebrate the national enthusiasm and fandom on social, in particular.

Working around broadcast rights

We did not hold broadcast rights, which limited what footage we could use, so we formulated a plan to best celebrate the event and sport  — creatively and fairly.

To do this, we adapted what we learned when covering the Men’s World Cup the year before and then amplified it, splitting the content between the key visual platforms: TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube Shorts.

The Women’s World Cup was the most-read topic on The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and Brisbane Times Web sites in August, and that translated into our social output and results.

Videos on the national moment garnered almost 15 million views across TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube. We could tap into a large audience by utilising the short, sharp and energetic vertical video style, providing bite-sized analysis, news and colour.

Podcast recordings featuring sports reporters were tailored for vertical formats to spark discussion on social media. These posts were not only successful but also amplified the discoverability of our podcast product and the expertise of our journalists.

One of our YouTube shorts was used in a TV package ahead of the Matildas’ Olympics qualifier in late October. It illustrated the cultural gravity of the tournament and tapped into the sense of community and virality of the moment.

Scoring on social

We created special designs for our Instagram pages for the Women’s World Cup to indicate a point of difference and special coverage. We created assets that spoke to the Matildas’ fandom and the heightened emotions during the tournament.

The scorecard asset for the Matildas’ quarter-final win became the account’s most engaged-with static post in six months, garnering more than 11,000 likes, highlighting the importance of a shareable design.

Through The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and Brisbane Times’ social-first coverage of the Matildas’ run during the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the mastheads shone a much-needed spotlight on women’s sport, elevating underrepresented voices through a clever use of platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube Shorts.

By taking advantage of each social platform’s different preferences, styles and algorithms and creating tailored assets and vertical video, we were able to reach and engage national and international audiences, driving growth in our brands and creating meaningful engagement. 

About Sophia Phan

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