Rugby World Cup: Which brands are winning?

As the Rugby World Cup moves into the quarter final stage this weekend, Heineken and Mastercard are so far winning the battle for social media buzz but the longer term impact is still unclear.

Rugby World Cup 2015

The analysis, conducted by Way To Blue, found that for Heineken, 32% of interactions and mentions on social media were related to rugby between 1 September and 13 October. The beer brand is a sponsor of the Rugby World Cup.

For MasterCard that figure was 29% while DHL saw a staggering 45% of social media mentions linked to rugby. However, the latter’s score is believe to be skewed due to its association with domestic rugby as well as the tournament.

O2 falls foul of England exit

The success of the three brands is in sharp contrast to England Rugby sponsor O2, which saw its #weartherose campaign suffer following England’s early exit from the tournament.

Of O2’s 100,582 mentions over the whole period, only 4% were around the Rugby World Cup, although this is in part because O2 is much more widely discussed than some of the other brands – in particular due to the O2 Arena.

Mention of O2 and rugby fell by 88% between the Australia and Uruguay games.
Mention of O2 and rugby fell by 88% between the Australia and Uruguay games.

Nevertheless the brand has seen a big drop off in interest. Rugby related discussion of the O2 brand on the 3 October – the date of the Australia game – hit 263 mentions but for the October 10 game against Uruguay it was only 32, a fall of 88%.

“Our research shows that tournament sponsors of the Rugby World Cup remain relatively unaffected by individual team performance but O2’s association with the England team specifically left them somewhat exposed,” says Adam Rubins, CEO at Way To Blue.

“In fact the volume of hashtag usage for #WearTheRose in the Uruguay game was only 12% of that in the Australia game demonstrating the significant impact England’s failings had on this campaign. This has been good news for the likes of Heineken and Mastercard who have capitalised on the diminishing impact of the ‘Wear The Rose’ campaign.”

Can brands sustain interest over the rest of the tournament?

Heineken has seen social media discussion around its Rugby World Cup campaign drop off since the tournament started.
Heineken has seen social media discussion around its Rugby World Cup campaign drop off since the tournament started.

Despite the relatively high association with rugby for both Heineken and Mastercard, interest has dropped over the past few weeks. There was a large peak in activity and discussion around the opening weekend and England’s first game against Fiji.

Thereafter both brands encountered significantly lower levels of rugby and brand related discussion.

Furthermore, the percentage of social chatter for both Emirates and Land Rover that related to rugby has only been 1% and 5% respectively.

The figures suggest the major sponsors have some work to do to keep fans interested in the latter stages of the competition – particularly now that England are out.

Beyond social media

The real success will of course come not from social media buzz but whether the World Cup can generate interest in their brands beyond the tournament.

Heineken says: “From a business perspective, we evaluate the success of our sponsorship based on the global impact on the Heineken brand. To this extent, we are already delighted with quality of the tournament and the excitement it has created in all participating markets.”

MasterCard is using its sponsorship to create a more emotional connection with its customers.

Group head of global media at MasterCard Ben Jankowski told Marketing Week: “We are trying to find ways to connect consumers to their passions with sponsorships that are emotionally powerful; rugby is great for that.”

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