Today’s the day; four years on from a rather turbulent month in New Zealand (you may remember dwarf throwing, sponsored mouth guards, jumping from Ferries and bungie jumping) England start another World Cup adventure against Fiji tonight at Twickenham.

As individuals, this is an opportunity to sing ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, talk about the wisdom of selecting Sam Burgess or just go to the pub and pretend to understand the rules while lots of drunk middle-aged men shout at the screen. For brands however, there is inevitably a Jonah Lomu sized marketing opportunity over the next 6 weeks. But do all brands recognise the opportunity?

As Marketing Magazine have highlighted, the Rugby World Cup is the globe’s third largest sporting event in terms of ticket sales, behind its obvious bigger brothers: the Football World Cup and the Olympics – which all draw phenomenal viewing figures which any other form of entertainment would struggle to attract. Even though it feels intuitively smaller, the Rugby World Cup will still reach 205 countries. Plus it’s estimated by the Economist that the net immediate impact to New Zealand’s economy during the last World Cup was NZ$491m. It’s a big deal in economic terms.

But for brands potentially it could be even bigger. Sponsorship still leads the way in making the most of the opportunity the World Cup presents and gives you the widest range of options in terms of activations. You just have to look at the potential reach of projects such as Jonah Lomu’s Haka in London, created by our sister agency Synergy for Mastercard.

Crucially though, the RWC’s restrictions on marketing are not as draconian as other events, such as the 2012 Olympics. During the London games it was possible to face a criminal conviction for advertising a non-sponsor brand too close to the stadium. The RWC does not go to these lengths so the opportunity for brands becomes bigger than perhaps it could be for the other big sporting occasions (whilst observing that there are still clear limitations).

You have to also consider the new audiences that will engage with the RWC. Trinity News have highlighted that events of this nature create what they call ‘major eventers’, those who are not ordinarily engaged with a particular sport but are swept along for the ride when a tournament arrives. In fact, the RFU estimate that the 10 – 12 million people interested in rugby will double during the event. That will inevitably bring a much more diverse audience into the game.

So in theory, audiences not typically considered key targeting, when it comes to Rugby, may suddenly come into play. With less restrictions than other events, this might be the time for brands you wouldn’t normally expect to experiment with tactical advertising.

More than anything though, let’s just hope they’re engaged in England’s progress all the way to the final.

Chris Boyton

About Chris Boyton

Account Director and Interim Head of New Business. I like doing triathlons very slowly, watching anything written by Aaron Sorkin or directed by the Cohen brothers and cooking my signature Beef Wellington.

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