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Rugby World Cup: the dark horse of 2023?

Amidst such a busy sporting season, it's quite understandable that the Rugby World Cup 2023 might have slipped under the radar of consumer brands. While many brands have been relatively quiet about the tournament so far, we believe there are still plenty of opportunities to be seized. Savanta compiled three key principles for brands looking to drive sales and make a lasting impact using marketing opportunities presented by global big sporting events.

Abby Smith Senior Executive 14/09/2023

2023 has already been a busy summer for sports fans, with highlights around an incredible Ashes series for both men’s and women’s cricket, a very wet Wimbledon tennis and an inspiring women’s World Cup football finals. Given such a busy season, it’s quite understandable that the Rugby World Cup 2023 might have slipped your mind entirely. Certainly, we’ve not seen a great deal of marketing activity from consumer brands around the tournament, with some notable exceptions. We still feel there are opportunities for brands to drive sales off the back of the tournament, so we wanted to pull together some key principles for those brands looking to benefit from RWC 2023, or indeed from any other large sporting events.

Go all in

The limited airtime given to the tournament so far presents an opportunity for brands wishing to be associated with the event as it gathers momentum and interest in the later stages.

One of the brands which has clearly identified the tournament as an opportunity to drive awareness is Asahi. Asahi is the tournament’s worldwide partner and official beer and has invested a reported £1.3m in a marketing campaign to drive sales of premium lager. One of its key consumer touchpoints has been the creation of an ultimate fan zone where the brand can drive connection to Rugby fans. The fan zone opened last weekend and included a watch party hosted by World Cup winner Jason Robinson.

Land Rover is another worldwide partner of the Rugby World Cup and has leveraged this sponsorship to drive awareness of their Defender model, launching a limited edition RWC 2023 Defender. Land Rover has also invested heavily in the “Defender Trailblazers” campaign, celebrating inspiring individuals within sport who have overcome disability or tackled discrimination, funding sponsorship bumpers at the start and end of ad breaks during coverage of the tournament.

Be relevant

As always with any big sporting event, the key consideration for any brand is to ensure there is alignment between the brand’s values and target audience and those of the event. Sponsoring a global event like RWC 2023 comes with the inherent risk of a brand potentially seeming out of place within the event’s context, which can lead consumers to question the relevance of their involvement. The hook used to connect the brand to the event is critical and needs to be considered carefully.

Let’s take a closer look at Asahi again. They have already implemented a promotional campaign to drive off-trade sales, offering consumers a chance to win tickets to the 2023 final. Moreover, they managed to establish a strong presence and prominent branding at the tournament hospitality sites.

Emirates, another official partner of the tournament, launched a digital campaign featuring South African rugby referee Jayco Peyper. The campaign follows the success of their award-winning “Whistle Watch” series from 2019, presented by former international referee Nigel Owens. All of these activities seek to embed brands at the heart of the tournament experience, building association and connection with rugby fans.


Measure impact and adapt

A crucial final stage of consideration for brands is to ensure that they are using data analytics and market research tools to measure the impact of their marketing activity. By understanding how activity lands with consumers and which specific consumer groups are seeing the activity and how they are responding, brands can adapt their approach to drive awareness, engagement and ultimately sales.

Taking the example of Asahi, it’s interesting to see from our BrandVue data that the brand has already seen a positive trend in key brand measures since the beginning of the year, with a generally upward trajectory on brand “buzz” (a measure of the positive ‘visibility’ of a brand amongst consumers) and an increase in their levels of popularity (4% rise since Q1). They have also seen their connection with young people double, with the brand increasingly seen as ‘cool’ and ‘a brand for me’, and an increase in overall brand affinity. We watch with interest to see how performance on key measures evolved for brands involved in the tournament, and in particular, our measures of brand “buzz” as RWC 2023 builds momentum and media interest. It will also be fascinating to see how other brands respond to this late summer marketing opportunity.

Are you interested to learn more and to talk to us about optimising your brand’s performance? Get in touch here.
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