As the Six Nations Championship fast approaches, marketers are preparing to capitalise on what can be a “goldmine” audience to target, but there’s a problem.

Out of the approximately 7.7 million fans engaging with rugby content online every month, 78% of sharing tends to occur via dark social – outside of channels that can be measured with web analytics.

According to RadiumOne, nearly half of all engaged fans share content, and they do it 2.8 times a day, mainly through email, text and instant messaging. Only 14% of sharing happens on Facebook and even less (6%) on Twitter. During the tournament, it is predicted 7.7 million clicks will occur via dark social and only 2.1 using public channels.

Craig Tuck, the group’s managing director, describes rugby fans as a “marketing goldmine”, with the majority (71%) tending to be middle and upper middle class with an income at least 20% higher than the average.

This, according to Tuck, shows how important this target group is for marketers. Sharing via dark social is more personal and therefore more influential than the “blanket” approach on social networks.

“The likes of O2, IBM, MasterCard and Guinness have utilised dark social to great effect,” Tuck added.

Effective targeting

To target fans effectively, it’s also crucial to understand the differences between how the Six Nations content is shared. Fixtures and results, as well as tournament table, are mostly shared via dark social (56% and 31% respectively), whereas TV/coverage schedule and team news tend to be shared publicly (42% and 38% respectively).

Rugby fans using dark social can be targeted via URL link shorteners and widgets around articles on the internet, by which they will be served relevant ads across the web.

Tuck believes brands should start their targeting efforts as soon as possible as he expects to see the tournament-related content being shared double the usual amount, adding mobile is a key element in the event.

“Last year, 28% of Six Nations content was shared on mobile but so far in 2017 it’s already 47%,” he explained.

The highest level of sharing last year occurred among French fans, however, England is currently leading with most shared content, followed closely by Ireland.