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Brands set to go head to head in the Rugby World Cup 2019

How to make Rugby World Cup advertising work for your brand

The Rugby World Cup only rolls around once every four years, but in truth, the next competition begins the moment the final finishes. Icons and stalwarts retire, parades are organised (and cancelled), wounds are licked. The next four-year cycle begins.

Rugby doesn’t want to stagnate. After over a billion viewers at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it faces the difficult task of trying to match or better that figure, with the 2019 edition taking place in Japan. Early kick-off times for European markets make this a tricky task with casual viewers, while only the most passionate fans will line the pubs’ bar stools at 9 am.

In the UK, the Cricket and Women’s Football World Cups have built a wave of unprecedented support in an already crowded sporting marketplace. RWC organisers will be hoping that a summer of sporting success helps to build momentum, rather than fatigue.

Advertisers and brands share the journey with the teams along each four-year World Cup cycle. Once the competition ends, performances are reviewed and dissected – just as the teams do. How did we perform? What and who were the standout stars of our campaign? What can we do better? Have we set a foundation for the future?

Understandably, the future of brand positioning is linked to on-field success. It’s far easier to be confident, passionate, aggressive when celebrating a triumph, rather than trying to rouse interest following a wooden spoon performance or group stage knockout.

Here at Orchard, we’re lucky enough to have a fantastic relationship with the FAW and were partly responsible for organising the welcome parade following the incredible success of the Welsh Euro 2016 campaign.

Our Head of Events, Ellys Evans, may have been the only person in Wales with even a flicker of frustration every time the Welsh team defied the odds, as she and the FAW team rearranged the Welcome Home party time and time again.

A rallying on-field performance also has the potential to change the public mindset. Spending in all the usual sectors (alcohol, cigarettes, snacks) increased during England’s 2018 World Cup run, but so did some more unusual suspects like insect repellent and matches. But how can you harness the feel-good attitude?

The advertising narrative is usually driven by the big brands who sponsor either the competition or one of the sides competing at it. Long term, carefully crafted media campaigns built along with the four-year cycle spring into life on the eve of the event and, hopefully, capture public interest throughout.

As ads become more dynamic, the line between advertising and broadcasting is also blurring. Out of Home media owner, Ocean Outdoor will use its giant outdoor screens to broadcast highlights from this year’s World Cup in six UK cities after signing an exclusive deal with ITV.

Unsurprisingly, media space during a World Cup comes at a premium – but with good reason. There’s a heightened sense of engagement due to the sporting tension so the ads become a real part of the spectacle. The SuperBowl has long embraced the competition amongst brands with some casual fans caring more about which advertisers won the match rather than the sporting occasion.

This year’s Rugby World Cup is set to be no different with the All Blacks sponsor AIG enlisting their top players for a playful video series informing fans on in the ins and outs of Japanese road safety,  while Guinness opted for a typically cinematic approach focusing on the story of Japan Women’s first World Cup appearance in 1989.

But is it possible to break into that bubble without official sponsorship? We think so if you’re clever enough.

Sport’s most powerful tool is its unpredictability and the biggest winners are those who can try to harness the chaos. While media plans are a must, being reactive becomes increasingly important with each major competition.

There’s always a standout performer, an unexpected twist, a huge talking point. How will your brand react?

Japanese airline All Nippon celebrated the Japan rugby team’s remarkable upset over South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup with a series of large-format displays around London, cheering their national team on Adidas’ tongue-in-cheek reaction to Andy Murray’s BBC SPOTY win in 2013 set a precedent for big brands to weigh-in on social, despite having no official partnership.

But there are rules, of course. The ASA has a handy guide on how to “avoid the sin-bin” and not step over the line when trying to “unofficially” tap into World Cup Fever. Check it out here.

The stakes are higher in a major event like the World Cup than ever before. Arrive at the party too late and you’ll miss your chance, get the tone or audience wrong and it could be remembered far longer than the successes.

The 2019 World Cup in Japan is an opportunity to prove that you’re smarter, faster, and stronger than the rest. Oh, and there’s also some rugby going on that shouldn’t be missed.

If you still want to see how Rugby World Cup advertising can work for your brand, get in touch.

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