The Matildas’ Playbook: Scoring Big in Public Engagement and Social Media

I’ve played football since I was five. The Matildas were always a team I looked up to and I admired their ongoing success in women’s sport. But it wasn’t until 2023 when many others started to see what I had always seen.

Since 1978, the women’s team has represented Australia in the Olympic Games and international football tournaments, qualifying for every FIFA Women’s World Cup since 1995.

Why is it only in the past few years that the team has gained such a massive fan base following and worldwide reach? From leveraging social media, building a brand through storytelling and driving social change, the Matildas growth as a national treasure is remarkable.

Before we delve into the Tillies success, let’s turn back to the 2003 World Cup. Picture this: Matildas players handing out flyers and phoning television stations to request that the stations broadcast their football matches. However, sadly not one journalist turned up for their airport press conferences.

Flash forward to 2023, and the Matildas are selling out stadiums, with more than 43 per cent of the Australian population tuning out to watch their World Cup matches. The Matildas game against France was, and still is, the most viewed television sporting event in Australian history. In 2024, the team made headlines again by qualifying for the Paris Olympics after a 10-0 win over Uzbekistan.

Many may believe the Matildas are an overnight success story, but there is much going on behind the scenes that as communicators, we can learn from. So, what are those lessons in communication?

Building a Brand Through Storytelling

With interviews, documentaries and a Netflix series, the Tillies have mastered the art of storytelling. They’ve shared their struggles, victories, and individual player journeys with the public. This has not only humanised the team but made them more relatable and endearing to fans and the public. By highlighting their dedication, resilience, and barriers they’ve overcome, the Tillies have crafted a compelling narrative. One of transformation, breaking barriers and fostering opportunities. This narrative transcends the sport itself.

Lesson #1

Authentic storytelling is a powerful tool for building a strong, relatable brand. It is so important to share personal stories and challenges to foster a deeper and long-lasting connection with your audience.

Leveraging Social Media for Engagement

Social media has been a crucial platform for the Tillies in building their fan base and engaging with supporters. Through platforms like Instagram, X and Facebook, they’ve shared behind-the-scenes content, player insights, and real-time updates, creating a sense of closeness with their fans. This direct line of communication has allowed them to build a community of supporters who feel personally invested in the team’s success.

Lesson #2

Active and authentic engagement on social media can strengthen the bond between brands and their communities, turning followers into passionate advocates.

Championing Causes and Driving Social Change

In November 2019, the Matildas achieved a landmark agreement with Football Federation Australia (FFA) which addressed gender pay disparity. This deal was hailed as one of the most progressive pay deals in women’s sport globally. Similarly, many of the Tillies players have been instrumental in promoting LGBTQ+ rights and visibility in sports.

These are just one of many examples and actions the Matildas have taken to drive social change. The players are role models for young girls and women around the world. They are sparking conversations on equality and respect, and now represent a team that symbolises progress and empowerment. Their advocacy has highlighted the role of sports teams in driving societal change and has garnered support from people around the world – and not just in sport – who share their values.

Lesson #3

Aligning with social causes and advocating for change can enhance a brand’s appeal, attracting a wider audience that shares similar values and goals.

Cultivating National Pride and Global Appeal

The Tillies have consistently performed well on the international stage, including reaching the knockout stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and winning the Tournament of the Nations. Many of the Matildas players have successful careers in international leagues. Combining these international success stories with community engagement and breaking of stereotypes, the Matildas have attracted a global fan base and universal appeal.

The players are symbols of national pride, representing Australia on the global stage with not only their talent, but sportsmanship and team spirit.

Lesson #4

Excellence and a positive team culture can elevate a brand’s status, generating national pride and global appeal. It’s important to communicate these values consistently and authentically.

Navigating Challenges with Transparency

In 2015 the Matildas took a bold step of boycotting a tour of the United States to protest against inadequate pay and conditions. This move brought public attention to their struggle and started a national conversation about gender pay equality.

Facing challenges, the Matildas communicate openly with their fans, sharing their side of the story, and rallying public support. This transparency has fostered trust and solidarity with their audience.

Lesson #5

Transparency in the face of challenges can strengthen trust and support from your audience. It demonstrates integrity and a commitment to your values.


The Matildas journey is a testament to the power of effective communication, social media expertise, and a strong, values-driven brand. Their success (and struggles) on and off the field offers valuable lessons in how to engage an audience, champion causes and build a brand that resonates with a wide range of stakeholders.

Not to mention, their ability to navigate challenges and cultivate global appeal, giving us five important lessons to score BIG in communications.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *