Rugby Sponsorship Landscape Post-RWC

Discussion started by Sophie Morris , on Monday, 14 March 2016 07:37

We were at Twickenham for the RBS 6 Nations match, England against Wales.

As England’s first international tournament since the Rugby World Cup, we wanted to reflect on how the rugby sponsorship landscape has changed since we hosted rugby’s biggest event.

Did England’s early exit spur on any sponsor exits?

For England, all eyes were on 02. Yes they cut their activation down when England went out but they retained a strong level of support for the team and that has ramped up again now for the 6 Nations.

Although levels of activation are lower than during the Rugby World Cup, as you’d expect, we have not seen sponsors leaving the game as some industry comments suggested. Sponsors need to show their audience that they are loyal to the team, as they hope that customers will be loyal to them. Being fickle isn’t a good brand value. So let’s see what actually happened.

O2’s current four year contract will end in June 2016. They also have the sale to Three hanging over them and so the future of this sponsorship is a bit in the air. Having been a sponsor since the game turned professional, they aren’t likely to drop out because of one bad world cup and have utilised the sponsorship well to reach new audiences and reward their current ones.

New signings include Old Mutual Wealth taking over from QBE as sponsors of the Autumn Internationals, and CBRE have also agreed an extension to 2019.

And two England sponsors, Canterbury and Vitality, are also sponsoring the U20s World Championship held in Manchester this year. So investment looks strong for England Rugby. As their Chief Commercial Officer of four years has now moved on, we look to see how England Rugby’s new incumbent will advance investment in the game.

Elsewhere, every major national team seems to have announced a new deal or a significant extension with a current partner in the past few months:

The Welsh Rugby Union extended their technical partnership with Under Armour until 2025 and have renamed their legendary home ground to Principality Stadium, thanks to a deal with the Welsh building society.

Investec has renewed with New Zealand Rugby, who also replaced the long-standing Coca-Cola deal with Pepsico. Gatorade, as well as sponsor and supplier, will give access to their Sport Science Institutes in the US to help the All Blacks in nutrition and hydration performance.

Scotland have announced extensions with Macron, A.G. Barr and Tennent Caledonian, and just this week announced a new partnership with Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer.

BT Sport made an interesting play for the Scottish Rugby shirt sponsorship in early 2015. At £3.6 million it is Scottish Rugby’s biggest ever shirt deal and sees BT Sport ensuring it gets attention through the international matches shown on its competitors channels.

Finally, World Rugby perhaps have the biggest surprise with beauty and aromatherapy brand Puressential becoming a new partner.

It will also be interesting to see how the new three year broadcasting deal between America’s NBC Sports Network and Premiership Rugby will benefit current league and individual team sponsors. This represents a great opportunity for clubs and for brands to test the American market and its thirst for the sport of rugby. A positive result might encourage other brands to support the game even further.

So it seems that sponsorship of the sport is in good health. As a judge for the UK Sponsorship Awards on the 22nd of March, it has been good to see the range of companies sponsoring the sport, how they activate that and how committed some of them are to its growth.

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Sport dominates sponsorship spend and growth forecasts look good. We look forward to seeing how the rugby sponsorship landscape develops from here. How sponsors improve their activation and, most importantly for us, as strategic marketers, how they improve the integration of the sponsorship across the rest of the marketing mix.

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