‘Rugby is niche but we can bridge it into broader culture’ says Beats’ marketing boss

Beats by Dre’s EVP of marketing Omar Johnson says he is hoping to give rugby global appeal and help it expand into wider popular culture with the launch of a campaign focused on the Rugby World Cup.

The headphone brand’s new ‘The Game Starts Here’ campaign focuses on the English, French and New Zealand teams and features stars Chris Robshaw, Wesley Fofana and Richie McCaw.

Set to an emotive narrative, each ad talks up the respective country’s diverse features – including Rugby drag queens for London and training in the “brutal” countryside of New Zealand – while showing off the brand’s wireless headphone range.

Admitting that focusing on rugby could be seen as a risk due to its limited global exposure, Johnson says the sport offers Beats By Dre an opportunity to tap into a new audience.

“It’s been an amazing journey for Beats to learn about rugby and as we got more intrigued, we felt like we needed to do something here and I think our work is the best you’ll see,” he told Marketing Week.

“Of course it is a risk as the sport is perhaps seen as niche globally but we feel rugby is ripe for the Beats’ seed of emotion.”

Johnson said football is a crowded space for the brand’s marketing and that rugby allows for more manoeuvrability.

“We did well with our ads for the football World Cup but we were one of many making noise from soft drinks to sports brands. In rugby there is more space and opportunity to be unique,” he added.

“Rugby might be seen as small but there’s a real opportunity for us to bridge rugby into wider popular culture and tell the unique stories of its fans and players.”

The brand will also launch a cooking show with retired French rugby player Sébastien Chabal as part of its efforts around the Rugby World Cup.

Taking a country-by-country approach is a first for the brand, Johnson admitted. He also clarified what would constitute as a successful transition into the sport.

He concluded: “If through the niche of rugby people feel Beats is talking to them in an authentic voice and then go try our headphones, then we’ve opened up the brand to a whole new consumer. If we find a way where Beats and rugby are both trending I will be happy.”

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