Rugby World Cup: spreading the word

Rugby World Cup: spreading the word

In the run-up to this year’s event, big brands see different opportunities from the world’s third-largest sporting event.

This year’s Rugby World Cup is set to reach millions of new fans across the globe as the visibility of the event is multiplied by three main media channels: social media platforms; various streaming channels; and Sony Six, which has been awarded broadcasting rights. This is in addition to the 2.2 million tickets that have been sold for the 48 games. It is this huge global audience that sponsors and partners of the 2015 Rugby World Cup are hoping to tap into.

There are many levels of sponsorship for the Rugby World Cup, but the ‘big five’ worldwide partners are Heineken, Land Rover, Emirates, MasterCard, Societe Generale and DHL. Each multinational giant is searching for a unique way to use its involvement with the event – a competition involving 20 teams clustered in northern Europe and Oceania – to spread a global message.

For logistics firm DHL, the Rugby World Cup is all about emotionalising the company. The World Cup marketing campaign is centred on the delivery of the Webb Ellis trophy to Twickenham. The trophy is on a worldwide tour from New Zealand to England, stopping off at all former winning nations, as well as visiting new rugby-playing countries.

Meanwhile, the practical aspect of delivery that DHL is known for – transporting kit, balls and equipment – is paired with the emotional aspect of sport, as a child from each rugby-playing nation will deliver the match ball at all 48 games. This, and the trophy parade, is all part of giving DHL a ‘human face’.

“We have changed from being just B2B to being much more consumer-facing,” said Global Sponsorship Manager, Fiona Taag. “And rugby is a sport of ‘influencers’ who might consider DHL as a partner further down the line,” she added.

With rugby traditionally seen as the preserve of an elite few nations, the global companies face the challenge of making the World Cup relevant to a wider audience. David Lette, Premium Brands Director at Heineken UK, explains how one Heineken campaign is tackling the challenge of appealing to consumers on a global scale. "As a worldwide partner of the Rugby World Cup 2015, Heineken is searching for 48 fans from across the globe to win a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the official coin toss at the opening of every game. As well as this ultimate prize, Heineken will be producing social content throughout the tournament offering an alternative perspective on Rugby World Cup 2015 from the Heineken Rugby Legends using #ItsYourCall.”

So just what can brands such as Heineken, DHL and Coca-Cola gain from their involvement with the Rugby World Cup?

One of the reasons that the Rugby World Cup is attracting sponsors is the price. It is the third biggest sporting event in the world by ticket sales, after the Fifa World Cup and the Olympics. But at £6.45m, it is £10m cheaper than becoming a headline sponsor at the Football World Cup.

And sport is considered to be one of the most efficient ways to promote brands and products. The most obvious pathway to value for the brands is through customer awareness. Pitch side branding, website presence, anywhere a logo or an advert can hit the public consciousness is of value. Then there is the B2B hospitality – hosting and building relationships at and around the event.

A third pathway is gaining customer loyalty through providing an experience. For fans at the stadium or fans who engage in some of the roadshows leading up to the event, the experiential value of association is key. Whether it is the street games, meeting players or one of the rugby roadshows, the campaign’s marketing success is measured by subsequent brand awareness and customer conversion.

Coca-Cola has been linked to World Cup Rugby since it sponsored the World Cup in South Africa in 1995, but at this year’s event the soft drinks giant will be concentrating on a specific target – to disproportionately market one of the products, Coke Zero. Since March this year, Coca-Cola has been promoting its one brand, pan-European strategy, which puts the four members of the Coke family – Cola, Diet, Zero and Lite – together for the first time. However, as Bobby Brittain, Coca-Cola’s Marketing Director for Great Britain, explains: “Coke Zero will be benefiting with the activity that we do with the Rugby World Cup: for the first time since we launched One Brand in March, we have the chance to foreground one product.”

As with all the brands, Coca-Cola has a central message: this year it is all about helping people to become active. The campaign features a ‘ball amnesty’ in which one million rugby balls are given away. “Our association with all sorts of sporting partners has an impact on getting people more active,” said Brittain. “It is impossible to imagine being given a rugby ball and not getting active as a result.”

Sarah Juggins Freelance Journalist CPL
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