Who won the sponsorship tournament in the Rugby World Cup?

In the Rugby World Cup the Southern Hemisphere nations have swept away all before them, but who has had the best tournament off the pitch, asks Henry Chappell of Pitch.

Who won the tournament off the pitch, asks Henry Chappell
Who won the tournament off the pitch, asks Henry Chappell
It might be twee to start by saying that, overall, rugby is the winner. But you know, overall, rugby is the winner. 

For a sport that turned professional just 20 years ago, it is quite an achievement that rugby’s flagship tournament is second only to London 2012 in being the most sponsored event ever to take place in the UK.  

In total, 40 brands have invested more than £200m (give or take) in an official association either with the RWC or with the RFU. 

And it’s a great testament to the broadening appeal of rugby that so many of these brands are delighted with the results and keen to continue investing in the sport.

But because of the number of brands involved, the main issue for sponsors has been to create meaningful campaigns that resonate with the nation’s rugby fans and big eventers.

For tournament sponsors, it has become a growing trend to involve the core of your business as a central part of the activation, transforming a global media opportunity into a true business-building partnership. 

DHL, the official global delivery partner, has shown off the excellence of its logistics capabilities by shipping team equipment between stadia. MasterCard used the tournament to showcase its contactless payment technology for the benefit of all match-going fans heading to the bar.  

These brands added value to the overall staging of the event, and it’s this sort of thinking that can make sponsorships so much more effective.

The bravest campaign had to be O2’s #weartherose. 

It went all in with England, with a commendably optimistic / dangerously naïve approach (delete as appropriate). 

To be fair, it banked as much value as possible ahead of the tournament. 

Its campaign was possibly the largest sports sponsorship activation ever undertaken in the UK. 

It included 377 rose-branded stores, a Take That gig and a TV campaign featuring a giant, and somewhat scary-looking, Chris Robshaw. All before a try was scored. 

You could say its strategy was to go ugly early, which can be quite effective. So I’m told.

Samsung’s ‘school of rugby’ commercials were the best TV ads to watch – my 70-year-old Mum loved them – but I’m not sure what they had to do with Samsung. 

They certainly haven’t made me consider buying a Samsung device.

Which is the opposite effect to that achieved by Guinness’ visually brilliant mouth guard and rugby sock posters. Who knew a dirty rugby sock could be such a thing of beauty? 

In these brilliantly simple and stylish visuals it has succeeded in creating an indelible link in my mind between its brand and the wholewheat, manly qualities of rugby. 

Everyone seems to be in search of authenticity these days, especially brands associating themselves with sport, and in one simple creative, Guinness has achieved this perfectly.

So, whether it’s the Aussies or the All Blacks who are victorious, I reckon I know what most of their fans will be drinking.

Henry Chappell is chief executive of Pitch

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