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For those of you who may have been living in a cave for the past two months, England hosted the Rugby World Cup this year and it is been hailed as the most successful world cup to date. 20 national teams participated in the World Cup on the pitch, however, off the pitch 100s of brands were competing.
From traditional TV to social and digital channels, print to experiential, all marketing channels were used as a communication vehicle to get brands’ rugby-themed message out.
Approaches varied from brand to brand, with some focusing their marketing strategy around backing the tournament whilst others were backing individual teams.
Now the tournament has come to a close, the most important question is this: Which brands won the Rugby World Cup?
With Heineken being an official worldwide partner of the Rugby World Cup, it was expected of them to squash competition from other brands. Whilst they didn’t exactly ‘dominate’ with their marketing strategy, they did manage to successfully run one of the best campaigns.
Heineken set out a marketing strategy that aimed to increase brand loyalty alongside awareness for their brand by getting fans involved with the tournament. From social media to ambient marketing, they ensured they utilised as many channels as effectively possible to ensure they achieved optimal reach.
“It’s your call” was the global campaign run by Heineken; this gave rugby fans the chance to flip the coin at the start of their country’s game:
— Heineken (@Heineken) September 18, 2015
Social media was a primary vehicle used to engage with fans. Through this channel they regularly featured two activities: the Coin Toss and Rugby Studio.
Rugby Studio allowed Heineken to position themselves as an expert in the game. Calling upon rugby experts and legends of the game, games were analysed and short clips were regularly shared across Heineken’s social media channels.
This ambient marketing stunt offered shoppers at a Tesco in Ireland the opportunity to win a VIP trip to the Rugby World Cup, although this didn’t exactly go ‘viral’, it still managed to attract and involve an audience of different demographics.
So how did this official sponsor do in the grand scheme of things?
Heineken managed to engage mass audiences through multiple marketing channels, ensuring engagement with their brand and tournament. Although they may not have monopolised as much as they would have wanted (with Guinness closing in on them with their marketing activity), they certainly raised and set the standard for marketing in which not many brands were able to meet.
As an official sponsor of the England national rugby team, O2 focused their marketing efforts towards encouraging the nation to support their team.
‘Make Them Giants’ was the campaign run by O2, which accompanied the ‘#WearTheRose’ hashtag. The concept of this campaign revolved around making the English rugby team stronger, making them ‘giants’ by supporting them and wearing the English rose:
All acts of support shared across social media were pulled through to a hub hosted on the O2 website where fans could see other acts of support.
Potentially one of the bravest campaigns discussed in this post. It’s easy to assume that England’s early exit from the competition would have greatly affected the success of this marketing campaign. So, did England’s early exit massively impact this campaign? I personally don’t think so. O2 managed to capture the feelings of the nation and keep them united even past their exit, using social media channels to do so:
From what could’ve been a complete failure of a campaign, O2’s responsiveness enabled them to cement themselves as a true brand that embodies the spirit of the sport, with over 5.4 million acts of support being recorded.
Being an official partner of the Rugby Football Union, Samsung set out a marketing strategy that aimed to enhance people’s experience of the game whilst reaching to a wider audience, utilising the expertise of English rugby legends in the process.
Samsung’s ‘School of Rugby’ adverts set out to teach newcomers to the game about some of the most confusing rules. Featuring comedian Jack Whitehall, England rugby legends take Jack through his paces, teaching him (and the people viewing) some core lessons.
Along with the adverts, Samsung also launched a School Of Rugby hub on their website, a spot where fans can go to watch exclusive content and read further into the rules of the game.
Although the ‘School of Rugby’ campaign didn’t exactly make me think ‘I want a Samsung product now’, it was still a very effective idea, and helped position Samsung as experts in the sport. It made for really funny TV and excellently targeted those followers that were new to the game (me), opening the sport up to a wider audience.
Another official worldwide partner of the Rugby World Cup, MasterCard were able to create a campaign that forged a strong brand bond with consumers during the tournament.
MasterCard launched their ’44 Days Of Crazy’ campaign that ran through the duration of the tournament, aiming to create priceless moments for people and turning the world ‘oval’.
— MasterCardUK (@MasterCardUK) October 28, 2015
A range of ambient stunts were held in various locations, creating truly viral content that involved genuine people with genuine responses, such as the surprise Haka at Convent Garden days before the tournament started.
MasterCard remained mostly online for the duration of the campaign, where they used social media channels to keep users engaged with the campaign using the hashtag #44DaysOfCrazy. Along with this, they also created a central hub on their website where users were able to receive live updates around the campaign.
With MasterCard being the brand that sponsored the Man of the Match award, MasterCard decided to put the decision to the public to vote for their winner. Fans could do this via Twitter using the #MOTM hashtag and MasterCard’s Priceless website, where one fan had the chance to present the award to the player themselves – this obviously went down very well.
MasterCard truly understood how to keep users engaged both online and offline, providing fans with plenty of opportunities to become directly involved with the tournament whilst creating unforgettable moments. MasterCard clearly demonstrated their forward-thinking approach to marketing and showed rugby fans why they are a global brand.
Although blacklisted from being served at any stadium throughout the duration of the Rugby World Cup (Heineken’s request), Guinness’ long association with rugby helped them to remain a strongly connected brand with the game.
During the build-up towards the opening of the Rugby World Cup, Guinness aired their ‘Never Alone’ video, part of their long running ‘Made of More’ campaign.
This advert fitted nicely into the type of inspiring content created by Guinness and really managed to capture the passion of the sport and players both on and off the pitch. Focusing around former Wales captain Gareth Thomas, the video managed to resonate with rugby fans and people alike, capturing the attention of a mass audience right before the start of the tournament.
Guinness’ activity on social media was certainly the area where they excelled and blew competition out of the water. Their ability to create stunning reactive content that addressed events during the tournament really helped them stand out from the crowd.
The content shared by Guinness simply but very effectively created a strong link between their brand, their product, and the game, strengthening their association further.
The marketing activity seen by Guinness throughout the tournament really showed why they are at the forefront when it comes to emotive adverts. By pairing emotion with the intensity of the game, Guinness really were able to captivate and speak to a mass audience, something a lot of brands struggled to do.
The brands that focused on living and breathing the tournament, sharing daily updates and constantly engaging with their audience succeeded the most.
The brands that took marketing to the next level were those that grew with the tournament, the likes of Guinness and O2. Their adaptive marketing strategies helped them to truly capture the emotions felt by those involved in the tournament – those are the brands that won in my opinion.
I’d love to know your thoughts on any marketing activity you’ve enjoyed during the Rugby World Cup. Feel free to leave me a comment or contact me via Twitter.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.