Itaú Unibanco celebrates women's football with AI-powered 'Brazilian Teams that have never existed' campaign

David Murphy

Brazilian bank, Itaú Unibanco, sponsor of all Brazilian national soccer teams, has launched a campaign focusing on the four-decade long ban on women playing the sport, using artificial intelligence to envision Brazilian women’s teams from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

The 1941 decree that stated, “Women shall not be allowed to engage in sports incompatible with the conditions of their nature,” lasted until 1983 in the country, crushing the athletic dreams of generations of young women. So, to develop this campaign and honor what might have been, the bank listened to former players, historians, sociologists and specialists, who helped describe how it felt to play women’s football at the time. Based on these testimonies and other research, a designer with an expertise in AI generated images of the possible athletes. The result was 'Brazilian Teams that have never existed'.

Crafted by advertising agency, Galeria, the campaign features print and electronic media pieces that celebrate the imagined teams that never took the field for the 1959, 1963 and 1971 Women’s World Cups. The effort focuses on three pioneers of the sport: Iolanda, a player from Vespasiano during the ‘60s, who practiced the sport in hiding; Dilma Mendes, a player during the ‘70s, who is currently the most award-winning football coach in the country; and Pretinha, a player from the ‘80s, who was part of the first Brazilian women’s team. The campaign was also supported by football historian and researcher, Aira Bonfim, as well as Giovanna Waksman (better known as Giovanninha), a 14-year-old player on the Sub-17 National Team and a rising star of the sport. 

“The history of women’s football in Brazil is very rich,” said Thaiza Akemi, Marketing Superintendent at Itaú Unibanco, “But most Brazilians are unfamiliar with the fact that women were once prohibited from practicing the sport. Bringing light to this history in a moment of great relevance and prominence such as the World Cup, is a way to honor everything those women dreamed and accomplished. As official sponsors of all national teams, Itaú wants to do its part to give visibility to this past, bring forward this dialogue to more people and empower future teams.”

The project is also running across social media, with support from celebrities from the football world, such as Fernanda Gentil, Carol Barcelos, Formiga, former referee Fernanda Colombo, and national team player, Camila, all of whom used their profiles to expand the reach of the initiative.