Campaign: The Sweet Chariot Tour
Client: Rugby Football Union
PR Team: Activate UK
Timescale: February-May 2004
After the buzz of England winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2003, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was keen to make the most of the opportunity to inspire the grassroots growth of the game. Between 1991 - when England lost in the World Cup final - and last year's victory in Sydney, the sport had lost more than 20,000 players. The RFU asked Activate UK, a consultancy that specialises in getting young people involved in sport, to help it get more people playing the game.
To recruit people who had never played rugby into the game as players, coaches and referees. To establish new rugby teams across the country.
To create a platform to drive media coverage, with the key message of making the sport accessible to a non-traditional rugby audience.
Strategy and Plan
The strategy was to take the World Cup trophy - the Webb Ellis Cup - on a national tour, allowing the country to share in the team's success. A rugby roadshow was developed to allow people to experience rugby for the first time in venues not normally associated with the game - shopping centres, football clubs, state schools and town centres. The target audience was broad, from children to adults.
The initial aim was for a 90-venue tour, but it soon became clear that more dates would be needed, and the tour was extended to 360 events.
The Sweet Chariot Tour was launched to the media on 4 February, with England centre Mike Tindall arriving with the trophy at RAF Cosford in a Harrier Jump Jet ahead of the first event at Telford Shopping Centre.
Local media promotions were used to drive awareness of each event, and the shows were linked with a number of sponsors to provide competition prizes. Each roadshow was followed up in the local media by providing information on how people could pursue their newfound interest in rugby as players, coaches, administrators and supporters.
Links were also formed with local Premiership rugby clubs to provide 'local heroes' to attend events and drive local media interest.
Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign gained 1,600 items of coverage in the national, regional and local media, with a total audience of more than 100 million.
In-house evaluation showed multiple mentions in every national daily newspaper, and all coverage contained the key message of promoting rugby to people who had never played it before. More than one million people attended the tour - an average of 2,800 people per event.
The tour successfully inspired people to get involved in rugby, as more than 25,000 registration forms were completed at tour events and passed on to the RFU.
According to the RFU, by the end of the tour more than 15,000 new adult rugby players, 500 new club teams and 3,200 new coaches and referees had signed up or been established.
New Nation sports editor Raymond Enisuoh says: 'We thought that the story would appeal because we don't see many things for ethnic minority children in inner cities and it was a great way of promoting a sport that is traditionally seen as elitist. The campaign was also presented in a very accessible way.'