The brewer is to become one of six top sponsors for the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup tournaments. Heineken says the deal builds on its positioning as the only brand “consistently involved in European club rugby since its inception 20 years ago”.
It hands Heineken exclusive online content and social media rights that will be used to amplify features such as the Back Stage Stadium Tour and Coin Toss. The company also has pouring rights at all venues for both tournaments and will run ticket giveaways and competitions.
The leagues continue Heineken’s exposure around a sport that sponsorship experts have said is set to see a spike in popularity ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup and its inclusion at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Hans Erik Tuijt, global activation director at Heineken, says: “We’re proud to be part of a new era in European rugby. Innovation and evolution are part of our brand’s DNA, so we see our support of the competitions as a natural progression. We look forward to again seeing the world’s best players and clubs battle it out for European glory at the finals in London next May. Both competitions are the perfect platform for the brand to keep building on its proud rugby heritage.”
The deal concludes a period of uncertainty for the brewer after it was forced to negotiate new terms with newly-constituted tournament organiser the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) following the collapse of the Heineken Cup in April. The tournament’s termination was the result of a two-year disagreement between its organisers and some of its top clubs over the qualification structure and the split of commercial revenues between participating teams.
Financial details behind the Heineken tie-up, which will run until the end of the 2017-18 season, were not disclosed.
Separately, Google will become the tournament’s online partner. The deal will see Google Hangouts, the free to download video chatting service that has been used by Premier League football clubs, used alongside online highlights posted on YouTube.
It is the latest attempt from YouTube to steal eyeballs away from TV screens as it accelerates plans to boost revenue around its burgeoning sports offering. The platform already works closely with Manchester City and Arsenal and has strong ties with Heineken and Adidas around their UEFA Champions League sponsorships.
The deals mean both tournaments will kick off next week without a full roster.The EPCR has already admitted that it had not been able to secure all the deals since the tournaments were announced six months ago but remains hopeful of future agreements.