The success of Rugby World Cup and Japanese sponsors

The great festive atmosphere continues as the Rugby World Cup (RWC) games are held at stadiums throughout the UK. I went to watch the Japan v Scotland game in Gloucester last Wednesday and the train we took was packed with Japanese fans who had flown from Japan for the tournament. According to EY’s economic impact study, commissioned by the RWC committee prior to the event, up to 466,000 international visits, more than any previous RWC, are expected during the 6 week event. What a fantastic opportunity to establish brand recognition for global companies which offer consumer goods and services.

In fact, Japanese companies are dominating the Official Sponsors of RWC2015, with Canon, Toshiba and Fujitsu being three of four. This is the first time for Canon and Fujitsu, while Toshiba also sponsored the event in 2007 and 2011. Fujitsu had a very late start by announcing its sponsorship on 1 September, mere 17 days before the opening of the event. Canon is offering services to support professional photographers and organisers to enhance the imaging experience in the tournament, whereas Toshiba is supplying computers and laptops to the event. Canon offered fans opportunities to shadow professional photographers during training sessions, and Toshiba offered chances to win some tickets, both via social media. For their corporate hospitality, Toshiba also hired Strawberry Hill House, a historic mansion close to Twickenham Stadium, but it seems that their sponsorship activities are relatively limited in terms of wider fan engagement.

More experienced sponsors are excellent within this sphere and maximising the brand awareness during the event. Coca-Cola (a sponsor since RWC1995), the other Official Sponsor released a film encouraging people to play rugby and started an on-package promotion to give away a million Coca-Cola branded rugby balls. It is also organising hundreds of free rugby inspired activity sessions in parks in six cities as part of its ParkLive programme, an initiative to tackle the nation’s obesity. One of the six worldwide Partners, Heineken (RWC1995, 2003, 2007, and 2011) is offering lucky 48 fans worldwide to win the amazing opportunity to attend the official coin toss at the opening of every game and it has communicated nicely to the nation with a stylish TV commercial. Former players “Rugby Legends” are at the Heineken Rugby Studio and the contents are shared by social media. They are holding numerous events before and during the event as well. A various sport event sponsor Emirates (RWC2007 and 2011) is also a Worldwide Partner. It has run a competition for teenagers to act as flag bearers leading the teams out onto the pitch and has produced an eye catching TV commercial too. The airline’s iconic uniform has being seen everywhere at the stadiums. Another worldwide Partner Land Rover toured in the UK and Ireland with the trophy in its car. Also it has held auditions for young rugby players to be official mascots to walk out with the teams to the pitch. The vehicle company supports grassroots rugby clubs by sending world’s big names to coach local community players. There is no doubt that those sponsors’ activities are a crucial part of the excitement.

I went to Wembley Stadium on Sunday to watch Ireland v Romania where an astonishing 89,267 fans attended. It was a Rugby World Cup record. But the fun is not limited to only the lucky ones who got tickets. The RWC2015 created 15 official Fanzones close to the stadiums for the first time, with capacities which range from 2,000 to 10,000 people, with huge screens, food stalls and bars. It is free to enter and there are also events outside of match days to keep the fever going. Extra exposure for corporate sponsors!

I admire the UK as an excellent and world-class event organiser. It has proved itself with the Olympics in 2012 and this RWC (although only a two-coach train each hour in Gloucester was a problem!). According to the EY’s report, about £1 billion will be added to the national GDP by hosting the RWC2015. And this figure can be achieved not just by hosting, but hosting well. The RWC2015 seems to be demonstrating a good track record so far. Japan will be the host of two coming important events, the RWC2019 and the Olympics in 2020 and has already had a rocky start, but learning from a successful predecessor is always useful.

On Saturday, Japan will play a “must win” game against Samoa, if they are to qualify for the Quarter Finals for the first time. I will be supporting in front of a screen probably in a Fanzone.

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