The SIG Column - 23 August

23 Aug 2007

The Rugby World Cup is nearly upon us and yet the advertising build-up to the event has not exactly been overwhelming. Drew Barrand, head of media at Sport Industry Group, explains why brands have delayed their advertising campaigns until the very eve of the tournament...

It’s been a while coming but finally we’re beginning to be inundated with Rugby World Cup related adverts.

In the last week, Guinness, Greene King and Domino’s Pizza to name but a few have all announced major multi-million pound advertising campaigns to push their associations with the sport forward as attention turns to the upcoming tournament in France.

The amount being spent by brands on riding on the coattails of this year’s Rugby World Cup is about par for course in terms of the tournament’s appeal and standing in the eyes of the general public.

What is strange is how late they’ve all left it to kick off the marketing campaigns.

To compare a Rugby World Cup with its football counterpart is a grossly uneven measurement.

However when you consider that advertising campaigns for the 2006 football World Cup began over 12 months before the tournament actually started, it becomes clear how late in the day such campaigns for the rugby counterpart are running, even allowing for the substantial difference in global build-up time.

Surely two weeks is not enough time to leverage an association between a brand and an event?

There are, of course, viable reasons why the advertising campaigns haven’t started until now.

Firstly, the lack of any real belief that the England team can match their efforts in 2003 and bring home the trophy has meant that fans are not exactly overly-excited at the prospect of the tournament starting. Like any sports fan, a winning team makes all the difference in capturing the imagination and England have failed, in some cases spectacularly, to do so.

Secondly, the timing of this year’s Rugby World Cup in the calendar has not been great. The substantial gap between the end of the domestic season and the tournament beginning has meant that rugby has faded from the back pages to such an extent that it is struggling to resurface. Pitched against the start of the Premier League season and it stands little chance of dominating the attention of the average fan.

With no media coverage and little build-up to talk of, it is perhaps unsurprising that brands have waited until the very dawn of the tournament before running their ad campaigns. Not even the big two of Nike and Adidas have taken their habitual approach of giving their campaigns a minimum of three months run-up to a World Cup.

What this approach does do is leave the field wide open for those advertisers looking for a quick hit. Without the build-up of a lengthy campaign, all brands are now competing for the attention of the rugby fan within the same parameters – a 2-3 week period where the media spotlight will turn on rugby.

In this environment, a Domino’s Pizza ad for example can theoretically have as much impact as that of a Guinness ad despite the latter having a far lengthier history with the sport.

Rugby World Cup advertising it seems will be an even fight. Shame the same can’t be said for England against New Zealand.

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