The Rugby World Cup is quite literally in town for UK advertisers but the tournament has implications for marketers across the globe.

Hoards of sports fans will be tracking the progress of the 20 teams involved as England plays host to what is already being described as a “massive commercial platform”. 

Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been pledged towards sponsorship and TV rights, although plenty more is expected to be spent on paid social, retargeting and search marketing while the tournament is played out.

We’ll mix up the ordering for the sake of starting with the basics, but here are the four Ws for advertisers wanting to catch rugby fans in the moment.


Taking place between September 18 – October 31, the Rugby World Cup is a tournament which has grown its TV audience by a significant margin every year it’s taken place.

It will have already generated an estimated £869 million for businesses in Britain, according to Ernst & Young, with 466,000 international visitors booking tickets, flights and accommodation to facilitate their live rugby fix.

Overall spending is expected to hit £2.2 billion in the UK alone, spread out while the fixtures are taking place, and huge ad campaigns from the likes of Heineken, Samsung and Air New Zealand prove that brands are taking notice.   

A fixture list comprising 48 games equates to a global TV audience of 4.2 billion. In short, there is a huge opportunity for marketers running campaigns across multiple platforms.


The above figures should explain why the World Cup is such a huge draw for marketers, but caution is still being advised.

Writing in The Guardian today (September 17), Jamie Hockin – business and strategy director at digital agency Collider – warned brands not to “jump on the bandwagon” with the tournament and to ensure that any messaging stays close to their core values.

That said, Rachel Bristow, director of partnerships at Sky Media, tells PerformanceIN that events akin to the World Cup serve as “great opportunities” for brands small and large to tap into a global audience.

“At a time of heightened awareness around a particular event, brands can theme their creative work to look ‘of the moment’,” she comments. “Some may want to sponsor the broadcasts, and others are just as happy advertising on other channels and in other content but with a nod to what all the excitement is about.”

As for goals, the general consensus is that meaningful connections with a fanbase should be the desired outcome. 

“Sports don’t just draw viewers; they add layers of engagement, energy and communal experience which are proven to benefit advertisers which align themselves,” Bristow adds.

Her thoughts were echoed by Heineken brand director David Lette, who earlier this week described the tournament as a “fantastic platform” to engage with an audience.


Moving onto the companies likely to benefit, several predictions can be made by studying TV audience demographics as well as their primary interests. 

A survey released this week by ad intelligence group Exponential, conducted on three million Brits, highlighted that rugby fans are cultured and far more likely to invest in brands like Vauxhall, based on their UK roots.

There’s also a huge female following to take into account, according to the same survey, with rugby fans tending to have a higher interest in subjects such as make-up and hairstyling than followers of other sports, like football. 

“Whilst rugby enthusiasts may gloat their sport is more about strength and manliness than football, their own fanbase is much more likely to be into an array of female-related topics,” declared Doug Conely, Exponential’s chief strategy officer.

The tournament’s list of official sponsors carries a very mature feel, with listed partners including Land Rover, watchmaker Tissot and logistics group DHL.


Finally, rugby fixtures will be taking place across the various stadia around London, Leeds, Leicester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester, which could be all be ripe for localised campaigns. 

Meanwhile, expect plenty of geofencing and iBeacon-related case studies to come out of the tournament, mainly from bars and restaurants which managed to pull in the punters during key times.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday (September 18) as host nation England take on Fiji at Twickenham.