Outside of the world’s top ten ranked rugbying nations, Italy saw the largest surge of World Cup fans.
Measuring interest across 16 markets outside Rugby’s top ten sides with 1,000 respondent surveys, Repucom found that Italy received an 11 per cent growth in Rugby World Cup fans against the previous tournament in 2011.
Italy (ranked 14th in the world) topped interest growth, followed by Spain (ranked 21st), Thailand (72nd), India (74th) and Malaysia (57th).
Notably, Italy, Malaysia and Thailand boast the populations most engaged with rugby outside of the top ten, making them ripe targets for media buys and merchandising linked to the RWC2015 and beyond.
Despite featuring annually in the Six Nations since 2000, Italy just in the last four years saw a boom in the volume of its domestic population interested in the sport (up from seven per cent in 2011 to 18 per cent in 2015).
Mike Wragg, global head of market research at Repucom, said: “Growing the fan base of a sport remains central to its success. The Rugby World Cup has done a huge amount over the last decade or so to bring the sport to a truly global scale.
“Since 2003, we’ve seen huge leaps forward in the commercialisation of the sport and in turn the accessibility of the game itself. Now markets as diverse as Spain, India and Thailand are beginning to really engage with the tournament which will be music to the ears of organisers and also shows the importance of the tournament in promoting rugby to the world.
Wragg concluded: “With the 2015 Rugby World Cup well and truly underway, it has been the underdogs which have brought the tournament to life so far. Japan’s win over South Africa on the tournament’s opening weekend shone a spotlight on the game’s emerging teams and potentially, regions and markets for commercial growth of rugby itself. Through this new data, we can see that trend actually take shape.”
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