Rugby World Cup 2019: best brand activations
On Saturday 7th November 2019, Siya Kolisi and his fellow Springboks created an iconic image to rival that of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar from 1995, as he lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the third time in rugby history. As that final, culturally significant image suggests, this was no ordinary World Cup but one that will be remembered as a watershed moment.
Now that the 2019 tournament is over, we take a look at the top brand activations across the Rugby World Cup.
When it comes to brand association with rugby’s values, perhaps no brand does it quite as well as Land Rover. Its worldwide partnership with the Rugby World Cup saw the brand’s global campaign pick up where 2015’s ‘We Deal in Real’ campaign left off. Continuing to occupy the position between the grassroots levels and the highest reaches of the sport, Land Rover wanted to demonstrate how no brand understands the spirit of rugby like it does, while celebrating how the sport has a place for everyone: ‘It’s what makes rugby, rugby’. The brand utilised its sole and exclusive World Rugby asset to engage with local rugby clubs by releasing content that featured high profile current and former players such as Maro Itoje, Jonny Wilkinson, Siya Kolisi and Gareth Edwards discussing the journeys they took to get to the top of the game while driving in a Land Rover.
We are constantly seeing brands making use of technological innovations to stand out amidst the competition, and this tournament was no different. Worldwide Partner, Mastercard, unveiled a new for 2019 Player of the Match trophy, influenced by Japanese heritage and cutting-edge technology. During each game, a bespoke computer programme monitored commentary from the Official World Cup feed, as well as fan activity on social media channels, in order to identify highlights from the match. These key moments were selected and laser-etched onto the back of the Player of the Match trophy, in real-time, whilst the match was taking place. The trophies were then awarded to the best player of each game and offered a first of its kind, ‘priceless’ account of the match, for them to relive this moment of sporting greatness.
Canon, one of Japan’s biggest brands, are another example of a brand utilising new and innovative technology to introduce exciting broadcast innovation. Its Free Viewpoint system captured image data from 125 cameras located around the stadium, giving fans the most immersive and exciting viewing experience to date. Canon created highlights and angles impossible to capture with a conventional camera and its content got the nation discussing the future of sports broadcasting. Canon’s Free Viewpoint system also allowed non-rugby fans and people who were new to the game the chance to appreciate the true beauty of the sport.
Several brands used Japanese culture and stories to reinforce brand values, but it was not without risk. O2 avoided accusations of cultural appropriation for its ‘Be Their Armour’ campaign, which saw England players donning traditional Samurai armour emblazoned with the Red Rose of the RFU, by releasing a proactive statement announcing that they had worked with experts from the School of Oriental and African Studies, to ensure they didn’t fall into any stereotyping traps. They also used their exclusive access with England coach Eddie Jones – who is half Japanese – as they worked with him throughout.
Although not an official World Cup sponsor, Guinness are a brand with deep associations in Rugby, and this year, they used the Japanese culture and stories of the Rugby World Cup to reinforce these brand values. For the tournament, Guinness released video content which merged the Japanese setting of the World Cup with the themes of its long-running ‘Made of More’ content, telling the story of brave female Japanese rugby pioneers who struggled against the norms of a conservative society to play the game they loved.
An unassuming brand that may not be the most widely known among other World Cup suppliers, Gilbert – the Official Ball Supplier for the Rugby World Cup, certainly made the most of its association with the game with its nostalgic, heart-warming ad. The ad follows a young rugby fan dreaming of getting a Gilbert rugby ball, before becoming an International player himself. The emotional ad touched the hearts of the nation and resonated with many, making it one of the most successful ads of the tournament. From an advertising perspective, Gilbert have showcased that you don’t need to be a big spender with a high-budget campaign in order to be successful amongst the high runners in the pack.
The Rugby World Cup 2019 offered huge opportunity and in-roads for brands and sponsors alike to capitalise on an exciting and un-known territory, and they did exactly that. Not only did this give us an insight into the future of the sport, but it also gave us a glimpse of what may be to come with next summer’s Olympic Games. A fascinating country with an enthusiastic population, Japan demonstrated their ability to create a sporting spectacle as a host nation.
Sarah Riddoch is an Account Executive at Fuse. Read more from Sarah on how brands have historically activated at the event here.