Rugby Union Sports Report
Between 2012 and 2017, China’s rugby participation increased by 3600%; a monumental statistic reflective of the sport’s growing popularity around the world. Yes, the overall growth-rate is not as dramatic, but with male and female rugby participants having increased by 66% during the same period, it seems the only way is up.
A handful of factors are responsible for this. In 2018, 28% of global rugby participants were female, with numbers rising from 1.5m in 2013 to 2.7m in 2018. As a result, World Rugby implemented an eight year plan to further increase participation and create high performance competitions, grow audience and attract long-term investment. International governing bodies suddenly have the chance to offer full-time contracts to female athletes. The influence of the women’s game was demonstrated in North America when the emergence of USA and Canada women’s teams generated a sharp increase in participation from 2012 to 2017. San Diego is set to host the 2019 Women’s Rugby Super Series later this year, a tournament last played in 2016 by five of the world’s best women’s rugby nations. Importantly, this commitment of World Rugby to the women’s game will not only improve the quality and competitiveness of competitions, attract more fans and offer long-term sustainable investment opportunities for brands.
Another factor instrumental to the rise of global rugby is the astonishing 112 million people in Asia reportedly tuning in. Asia is set to host the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 2019 followed by the second ever Olympic Rugby Sevens event at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and these global tournaments have the opportunity to transform those interested in rugby to full-time supporters of the game, not to mention hook in a whole new audience of international rugby fans.
A contemporary incarnation of the traditional game is having the same effect. Like Twenty20 did for cricket, Rugby Sevens has proven that the shorter version of the game can be key to attracting new audiences, with World Rugby establishing the format for its ability to, “convert new fans in the digital space, with its high-action, short, easy-to-understand, made for social media format resonating with younger casual sports fans”. Making changes to the classic form of the game is likely to continue to be a prominent theme in years to come marking exciting opportunities for new players to enter the sponsorship landscape. Major Rugby World Cup sponsors continues to be dominated by the more traditional industries such as airlines, cars and financial services. But new entrants like men’s grooming products has increasingly featured in recent years, aligning their core brand values with those of games.
Further changes are afoot. The 2020 international rugby schedule is currently under review with a push by World Rugby to create a 12 team World League. The new competition would consist of the Six Nations and the four existing Rugby Championship teams. Japan and the USA would make up the final 12. In the new format, the teams would play each other once during the year with a final in the Northern Hemisphere in early December. The idea behind the World League is for fans to witness high quality matches more often, engaging fans and attracting additional sponsors. Keep your finger on the pulse and you’ll find a wealth of opening opportunities to hit big through rugby.
- Professional rugby attracts sponsorship from major global brands.
- Competition consists of world class teams.
- Professional rugby has a packed calendar of world-wide events, from the Rugby World Cup to the Guinness Six Nations.
- International rugby competitions enjoy significant global broadcast, livestream and in-event audiences.
- The 2019 Six Nations England vs Wales match recorded a peak audience of 8.9m on BBC.
- A peak of 2.65 million people tuned in to ITV in the UK to watch the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup final.
- Japan’s rugby participants increased by 119% between 2016 to 2017 – the driving factor being this year’s 2019 World Cup. 2.4m players in 2017 were female participants.
- Rugby’s online media coverage also produced impressive numbers, especially during the Rugby World Cup in 2015 as the tournament attracted 400 million views of official content.
- As more international governing bodies replicate RFU’s support of women’s rugby by awarding female athletes with full-time contracts, additional high quality leagues and competitions will begin to form, attracting more fans and offering long-term sustainable investment opportunities for brands
- Key competitions structure and calendar
- Growth of women’s rugby
- Global participation
- Coverage and audience viewership
- Spotlight: Rugby Sevens
- Spotlight: Rugby World Cup
- Sponsorship activations
- Rugby in Asia
- Club rugby competitions
- Considerations for brands
- Sponsorship Breakdown
For an example of a full Sports Report, see our Skateboarding version.