Behind Rugby Sevens mission to get closer to fans through digital products

World Rugby and Capgemini partnership focuses on fan engagement innovation

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tours around the world but with most people only able to see one event a year, if any, the competition is partnering with Capgemini to look at new digital ways of getting closer to fans.

The aim of the partnership was for Capgemini to look at technology, such as machine learning, AI and data science and create new digital products.

Virginie Regis, chief marketing and communications officer at Capgemini, says that previously, Capgemini sponsored rugby in a more traditional form, by sponsoring more local clubs but it wanted to take a more global approach, as well as one that highlighted its capabilities.

“What we want to do is create an immersive experience for fans, to let them be part of the game, rather than just being a spectator. These innovations also allow us to combine our expertise and passion for technology as well as customer experience with our love of rugby, to make the game even more enthralling and interactive for fans,” she explains.

Regis says the products that launched this year were built from data-led insights and are meant to be used by fans either at home or at the stadium.

“Our Match Predictor game offers viewers a new, deeper level of interaction with the competition. To play the game, fans select their expected winners and margin of victory as part of a simple league. They can pitch their own knowledge of the game against the Capgemini Bot. There is a leaderboard for the game and fans win points for predicting the game’s outcome correctly. This app is now integrated with the World Rugby app and website and open to the fans all over the world,” she explains.

Since launch, Marissa Pace, chief marketing officer of World Rugby, says the partnership has helped the business use data it already had, and since launch, it’s already creating higher engagement metrics on its digital products.

“For us, it is really about bringing the team spirit, the sporting value and history of rugby to the fans, to let them be part of shaping that experience. Over the years, we’ve gathered lots of data from the sport," she explains.

"But it’s about packaging that data into a meaningful story that can bring to life the magic of the game. That’s why it is important for us to have a partner who shares in that excitement and challenge with us."

She continues: "The Match Predictor has exceeded our expectations. Evidently, fans are loving the interaction and we are experiencing really significant engagement times on both the app and website from fans. We are looking forward to the Match Predictor becoming a regular part of the fans’ Sevens weekend."

Pace adds that the success of these products means that it’ll be looking closer at other services it can layer onto the data it owns. While it’s also marked the start of a bigger innovation journey that will see the business invest in virtual and augmented reality to create a more immersive and enticing fan experience.

Going forward, we will see data, insights and analytics move even closer to the heart of World Rugby. We believe that what makes this sport special is not just the game itself, but also the atmosphere that surrounds the game and the dedication of fans to the teams, players and league. Through these innovations, we are allowing fans to feel like they are truly part of the tournament and are giving them influence in the growth of the World Rugby,” she says.

The company is planning to use Spalk to create personalized broadcast experiences for viewers, while it’ll also be looking to Capgemini to adapt the TV experience.

“In the next few years, we hope to develop our partnership with Capgemini to make the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series a fully immersive experience, moving it even further away from being simply a TV program that people switch on and off or a one-off event to attend. We want the tournament to become a series that people want to be involved in from start to finish, that grabs their attention from the get-go and makes them feel a part of something.

As a part of this, she adds, another area the brand is looking to invest in is innovations that take fans into the team’s training.

Other Rugby Sevens sponsors have also taken a digital twist on sponsorship this year, with HSBC sending a connected ball out into the Hong Kong business community to get stories from small business owners.

Technology is at the heart of a lot of sports investment in recent years, as finding ways to expand fan engagement and generate new revenue streams become key objectives. The International Olympics Committee has signed Alibaba as a ten-year sponsor and tasked the company with digitizing the experience.

Ahead of Tokyo 2020, the company has launched technology to help improve broadcasting for the event.

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