Participatory co-design model helps F-liiga towards commercial growth.

The client

F-liiga is the championship series of Finland’s fastest and most entertaining sport, floorball, where women and men compete as the only sport under the same brand.

Salibandyliiga’s brand, which preceded F-liiga, entered the history books in the spring of 2020 as part of the commercial growth strategy work carried out in cooperation between Republic and the men’s league. From the start, it was clear that the men’s and women’s leagues should be under a new brand. The brand should also work on the international market, stand out from the general look of Salibandyliiga, attract new people to the sport, fit in today, and last a long time.

As a result of the brand renewal, Salibandyliiga got a new brand identity, strategy, and look, as well as new website and social media channels. Due to the historical reform, both women’s and men’s main leagues are now played under F-liiga, and the league grew into Finland’s largest ball-playing league.

The challenge

The teams playing in the women’s F-liiga have weaker financial resources than the men’s league. This is also directly visible in player careers, and only some have the opportunity to rise to the top of the sport.

F-liiga approached Republic to develop the women’s F-liiga and increase its commercial potential. The joint project was launched right from the beginning of 2022. The goal was to form a clear picture of the current situation of the women’s league, the views and challenges of the clubs, as well as the thoughts and passion of the players. With the help of the overall picture, it would be possible to shape the new vision, define the possibilities for commercial growth, and expand the brand’s story with the unique features of the women’s league. What would interest the audience and make the stands swell? How to attract partners to support teams with athletes? At the same time, we wanted to review the series system of the women’s league and generate information for the league’s development team to create a new series model.

The solution

We started mapping the challenges and the current situation with F-liiga using participatory co-design model. We interviewed the background people of all the teams playing in the series and involved the management in workshops in shaping the dream state and commercial solutions. In addition, we sought relevant information by interviewing several active players with different backgrounds – players know how to bring out their passion and goals as elite athletes best and describe the concrete challenges they face when training with limited resources. All parties started working together with dedication.

Based on the background surveys and the views formed from them, Republic, together with the representatives of the F-liiga board and the board of the Finnish Floorball Association, put together a strategy aimed mainly at the commercial development of the women’s league.

The background work showed that the women’s league faces more challenges than the men’s league: the resources are fewer, the recognition is lower, and the activity is only sometimes considered a sport to be taken seriously. So the most important thing was to turn the F-liiga into a well-deserved top sport, especially for women. It means sufficient resources for doing things, the right framework, attractive sponsor contracts, entertaining events, and growth for the whole sport through actions. The following became the values ​​and cornerstones of the strategy:

The power of community and working together
Everyone involved in the activity, from players to spectators and background people, shares the same vision and common will to move the sport and women’s sports forward. Let’s grow, develop, fight, win, and lose together. Together, as a team and sport, we overcome various obstacles – in the game and mental images.

Growth toward a peak
Let’s persistently develop our own gaming, gaming and event culture as well as partnerships and services together. The goal is to be a universally known series full of elite athletes that entertain.

The vision of the Women’s F-liiga was to be known as a significant series of floorball consisting of top athletes, which entertains fans of the sport both in Finland and internationally. The goal was defined as the women’s league being Finland’s most watched and commercially successful women’s ball-playing series by 2030. Both involve ambition that emanated directly from the teams and athletes playing in the series.

After forming the strategy, we made an action plan staggered for different time spans. The action plan contains concrete commercial development measures for clubs, the league as well as match events, and the development of partnerships. In addition, by listening to and involving players and clubs, we created a story that expands the F-liiga’s brand to support the unique features of the women’s league. It makes it easier to tell about a more communal and entertaining top sport whose matches are full of twists and turns.

The results

The women’s F-liiga was renewed for the 2023–2024 season, and already during the previous season it had closely implemented an action plan for the future together with clubs and players. In the future, the women’s league will be played in division of 12 teams. In addition, Säbäkipinä, conceptualized through previous cooperation, will be harnessed by clubs to support increasing the number of players on the girls’ side.

The co-design model is still used by F-liiga. In 2023, various participatory workshops were organized, where e.g., players got to think about how to create a better framework for elite sports. Clubs were also involved in jointly developing new commercial solutions and even more entertaining events.

During the 2022–2023 season, a joint media card was also introduced, which explains the league’s unique features and concretely opens up the commercial potential for partners. A common way of acting and presenting brings better opportunities for large-scale cooperation.

“The current journey has already shown that there is a will to solve challenges and build an increasingly commercially and audience-interesting F-liiga women’s series, which also enables the players to have an increasingly professional opportunity for competitive sports. The slogan “nothing can stop us” reflects well the kind of attitude with which we succeed together”, Arja Kilpeläinen, who has been involved from the beginning and representative of the board of the F-liiga, sums up in the F-league’s press release.

The meaning

The work carried out using the participatory co-design model helped shape a clear direction for the women’s F-liiga and all its players, which emphasizes the players’ passion and desire to play sports internationally at the top level. The top sport demands a lot from individuals, clubs, and the entire league regarding framework and resources, but it is also a significant factor that unites the whole F-liiga. Supporting commercial development enables the implementation of the strategy, offering a sense of community for the teams and the growing supporters.

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