Tried and Tested: A review of the Rugby World Cup brand partnerships

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Welsh legend Gareth Thomas featured in the Guinness campaign.

Brand partnerships can come in so many shapes and sizes and world sporting events always create a powerful platform for brands to engage fans.

Some of these partnerships carry healthy million pound investments and are some are a little more advantageous. It’s usually more fun watching the unofficial brands act mischievously, dancing around the legal wrangle holds official sponsors put in place.

The Rugby World Cup has thrown a whole load of campaigns at us recently which we have ‘tried’ and tested here to review the good, the bad and the down right genius.

As a sponsor there are three requirements of which a brand must offer fans; exclusive content, inside access and prizes and rewards. Heineken, Coca Cola, and Mastercard achieved all of that through engaging fans with opportunities to get on the field, watch from the sidelines and meet the players.

But Heineken specifically created talkability within the industry by hammering down on competitor brands advertising outside the venues. A 500metre exclusivity zone meant competitors had to think differently if they were going to stand out.

Diageo and Guinness reacted through storytelling with an emotional campaign using Gareth Thomas to promote its deep-rooted rugby ties but focusing more on integrity and character. Thomas, former Wales captain discusses in the TV ad and a short documentary his struggle in hiding his sexuality while captaining Wales and how he was able to eventually open up about it thanks to the help of his teammates. A campaign that has been applauded by rugby fans in both breaking down cultural and social barriers. This partnership of pairing the key attributes of rugby with Guinness is simply done and very effective.

Official sponsor Land Rover took an unexpected approach by collaborating with Barbour to create a special capsule collection advertised by Laurence Dallaglio. The partnership saw the first ever use of the Twitter Collections functionality to display and sell its clothing through Twitter. This collaboration of two brands with strong British Heritage, precision and functionality has led to an interesting celebration of the sport executed through an innovative new social media tool.

Beats by Dre were cleverly able to get involved in the event through creating unbranded content using players outside of sponsorship restriction periods. The headphone manufacturer created a high-profile publicity campaign with the likes of Chris Robshaw giving a rare and moving glimpse into his preparation for the RWC through a series of films titled ‘The Game Starts Here’. An acknowledgment that even though Samsung were official sponsor, players were still able to support their favourite brands and offer a more impactful and genuine collaboration.

Aside from the innovative, the impactful and the emotional, one of our favourites and down right advantageous was Richmond Sausages. The Kerry Foods brand created rugby-inspired limited edition flavours to tap into the excitement surrounding the World Cup. The new line-up featured traditional tastes from around Great Britain including Scrum Cumberland, Line-Out Lincolnshire and Penalty Pork & Leek. The rugby style makeover of the brand not only disrupted the category but certainly made us laugh.

Jo Coughlin is new business director at Mediator.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.