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August 24, 2023
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Make the most of macro-moments

The numbers don’t lie. We have witnessed a cultural macro-moment.

It’s estimated that 64% of Australians watched the Matildas in the Women’s World Cup semi-final.

That is a staggering number – and it’s not just Australia.

With the highest viewership since the Sydney Olympics and the Matildas’ kit outselling the 2019 edition 13 to one, it’s clear this has been a powerful macro- moment worldwide.

Post-Y2k, shared experiences on a national or global scale feel increasingly rare and hard to anticipate. From the 2010’s, we have experienced fewer and fewer moments en masse. The tight-knit circles and online bubbles we formed in COVID-19 lockdown amplified this further – a new way of living we’ve been slow to shake.

The decline in macro-moments presents an issue. They can develop social cues and shape norms for large groups of people, and even shift people’s behavioural axis. This means that the less we experience together, the less connected we feel with the world around us.

Cultural research: three questions

At TRA, we regularly track key cultural currents on a micro- and macro- scale, to better understand, analyse, and anticipate future patterns and movements in society-at-large.

Underpinning all of our cultural research are three basic questions that everyone can ask:

  • How does ‘x’ impact the individual? (From identity, expression to our physical self and soul)
  • How does ‘x’ impact our relationships? (From 1:1 connections, work, to communities and place)
  • How does ‘x’ impact our systems? (From public/private institutions, technologies to our environment)

Similar to the STEEP methodology, these questions provide a simple framework for decoding why culture is shifting and where that may lead us in the future.

So, using this framework, let’s break down why 64% of Australians held their breath for 90+ mins on the 16th of August 2023?

How has the Women’s World Cup impacted individuals?

It speaks to identity

Representation matters. 51.5% of Australians are either born overseas or have at least one parent who was. TRA’s research into diverse migrant communities shows that of 1 in 3 migrants from non-English speaking countries don’t feel recognised or represented as ‘Australian’. Meanwhile, Sam Kerr, who has spoken proudly of her Indian heritage and her grandmother’s decision to migrate, cemented her place in Australia’s history with an iconic strike 20 metres out from goal, surrounded by three English defenders. Sam Kerr is one story, add Fowler, Simon and Williams to the mix, we are seeing the representation and recognition our large and vibrant migrant communities in Australia are seeking.

Representation also matters when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community. The disparity of LGBTQIA+ representation in the men’s game places even more significance on the open nature of the women’s game. Players’ identity on and off the field has not been supressed. For younger generations who want a more inclusive society, the Women’s World Cup is making FIFA and the beautiful game relevant to communities that have been traditionally sidelined by the patriarchal structures of sport.

It speaks to expression

Seven commentator Mel McLaughlin noted that the real victory from this World Cup is a whole generation of Australian kids seeing this tournament as ‘normal’. We can only hope it will start to make an impact on girls dropping out of sport past the age of 15.  

It goes beyond just the drop out rate. This moment was also a big one for parents, family friends and grandparents watching – witnessing something they have never seen in their lifetime. This is set to develop into a new support system, future proofing our communities that encourage women to become confident, resilient, and collaborative leaders. Not to mention creating an environment where it’s ‘normal’ for young boys aspire to be the next Carpenter or Foord.

How has the Women’s World Cup impacted our relationships?

It speaks to our work and home life

Equal pay, equal play. The 2019 Women’s FIFA World Cup saw the US Women’s team sue US Football for institutional gender discrimination. ‘Equal pay’ became the chant during the tournament and subsequently after United States won over the Netherlands. A labour protest at a football match.

This tournament has caused a seismic shift in the way we see women’s roles in sport and at work. The Australian government has quickly taken the opportunity to step into the Matildas’ spotlight, announcing $200 million for women’s sport.  

With women’s safety inside our parliament corridors raising red flags, it's clear that the ripple effects of this shift will be felt beyond the sporting world.  The Wallaroos statement to Rugby Australia released after the Matilda’s took fourth place sums it up. “It’s your move.’’ More women raising their voice will plant the seed to ask for more and apologise for less. And there’s lots of work to be done: on average women in Australia earn 13.3% less than their male counterparts.

It speaks to our communities

Grassroots sports are the foundation of healthy communities and create the pipeline for professional leagues.  

The audience demographics in the stadiums this World Cup were vastly different from what we are used to seeing. Despite later game starts, families were front and centre, with a focus on and celebration over competition.  

Discounted tickets made the games accessible to more Australians & New Zealanders. Taking additional frictions away created an invitation to get out of the house together.

The family-friendly demographics at the Matildas matches might also derive from us knowing the players before they even set foot on the pitch. The Matildas’ Disney documentary introduced families to the team and their support network. Working mothers could see themselves in Katrina Gorry returning after the birth of her daughter, and a backbone of the Australian team.

It seems the Government sees the impact of the moment. Thanks to the groundswell of support for the Matildas, the Australian government have now announced plans to make more major events available on free-to-air television. It’s good for the country (and everyone’s bottom dollar) when we come together.

It speaks to how we connect

Post-pandemic there are fewer mainstream waves we can all ride. We’re all looking for something to believe in – and the Matilda’s narrative has emerged as common ground. It connects not just with women – but with every underdog (and Australia loves an underdog).  

Fan culture has immense power. Just look at Swifties suing Ticketmaster or Barbie turning cinemas into cosplay meetups. In one month, the Matildas have galvanized a national army. Women’s football already has a strong grassroots fan culture in the US and Europe (check out @girlfanszine and @seasonzine).  

In Australia, fan culture around women’s sport has been gathering steam in recent years. Olympic gold medallist Chloe Dalton is a great example: after dominating three codes in rugby union, basketball and Australian rules football, Dalton amassed over 100,000 social media followers, founded The [Female] Athlete Project, launched a podcast, and published her first book ‘Girls Don’t Play Sport’. Watch this space – fan culture around women’s sport is only set to get bigger now that the Matildas have come to play.  

How has the Women’s World Cup impacted our systems?

It speaks to our evolution

Football is a religion to many around the world but not in Australia. Even though Australia is a migrant country, football, or ‘soccer’ has been seen as an introduced sport.

In 2012, sport commentator Les Murrary noted the games’ reputation was reinforced by influential figures that see the game as “some kind of alien animal to which real Australians will never take, because there are far too few goals, there are too many prima donna divers, there is no video refereeing and their fans are far too violent and, in any case, not like us.”  

Football received a priceless PR endorsement from Bruce McAveney, the voice of Australian sport. In his sign off after the Matilda’s took fourth place, he was as sentimental as those watching at home:

“As great as the other sports (are that) we have in Australia – no one loves AFL more than me – there’s only the World game that can create such a stage.”  

Football offered the world stage to Australia and New Zealand. For two countries that never invested or identified with the sport, millions see its power. As we move forward, it’s clear the Matilda’s have rebranded ‘soccer’ in this country, making inroads for all codes to become fairer and more equitable.

It speaks to our (newfound) national pride

It’s increasingly harder to have agreement, especially as a nation. The pandemic offered our last ‘shared moment’, but not one that united. As time dragged on, we seemed to move away from the middle and into our corners. COVID nearly cancelled the Tokyo Olympics, the Commonwealth Games is in identity crisis and Australia is at a crossroads referendum. There hasn’t been anything to unify and collectively get us on the same page – until this World Cup.  

We have found something that makes us ‘feel’ like a united nation again. Australian merchandise is flying off the stands because of pride in the Matilda’s. In amongst everything that the Matilda’s have achieved, this is the biggest win. Estimated figures put the Matilda’s brand valuation at the start of the tournament at $40-45million. Over the next three years, that is expected to grow to $175- 200 million. Can a team shape a country’s identity? The young kids heading outside to pick up a ball are going to find out.

How can we supercharge cultural moments?

“Broadcasting iconic sporting and cultural events helps us to create shared experiences, fosters a collective Australian identity, and contributes to grassroots community-based participation.” - Hon Anika Wells MP, Minister for Sport  

Australia and New Zealand were announced as the hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in 2020. Could we see this coming?  

No one can orchestrate a win, but we can pool support, resources and airtime to help align the stars for those keeping the engine of women’s sport thriving. Just ask the players and those behind the scenes who have been working towards this for their whole careers.

As we look at our national calendar going forward, we have the chance to take what we’ve learned from the Matildas and apply it to future events – focusing on super charging not just the macro moments, but the incremental ones that build up to them.

While we know not every moment will hit like this World Cup, it doesn’t mean they won’t make an impact.

Ask yourself the three questions:  

  • How does ‘x’ impact the individual?  
  • How does ‘x’ impact our relationships?  
  • How does ‘x’ impact our systems?  

If we want more shared moments that build our connection and a collective narrative, we need a collective focus on those connecting the dots between the individual, communities, and our country.

It's time to pause, take note and reflect.

To tap into the people who are doing the work to shape our culture in the long term.  

To ask ourselves: how can we take cultural moments from micro to macro, so we can share them together?

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August 24, 2023
Contributed by
Tagged with
Behaviour change
Brand & creative
Customer experience
Cultural insight
Laura Mulcahy
Director of Cultural Strategy
Laura Mulcahy is a cultural foresight researcher and strategist. Prior to TRA Mulcahy spent nearly a decade at Nike, USA. Most recently part of their Global Insights team where she spearheaded research projects across the US, Europe, and Asia, influencing Nike's design, brand, and business strategies. Prior to that role, she excelled in Nike's Trend Forecasting team, identifying global lifestyle shifts shaping sport, fashion and culture.
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