The commercial health of rugby: How deal values and fan bases continue to fuel growth

A bright future for the Lions’ nations

With next year’s World Cup on the horizon, the rugby Autumn Internationals have kicked off with a bang, as fans savour the return of international competition.

Yet with England beating South Africa and narrowly missing out on a historic victory over New Zealand, and Wales triumphing over the Wallabies at the Principality Stadium, momentum seems to be building just at the right time. There have also been massive wins for Scotland and Ireland, both teams racking up a half century in points in single games. Ireland’s thumping of Italy (54-7) in Week 1 and Scotland’s thrashing of Fiji (57-14) in Week 2 stood out as two of the biggest wins in the Autumn International series and showed what fine form the Lion’s nations are in ahead of 2019’s Rugby World Cup.

With Ireland taking on New Zealand and England hosting Japan on the 17th November, there is still room for plenty of fireworks and potentially big scorelines. Combined with the Premier League’s international break and live Autumn International matches on free-to-view channels; BBC1, BBC2 and Channel 4 this weekend, TV audiences could well swell. Good news for fans and especially good news sponsors.

The growing value of deals

A new brand in a prominent location often catches the eye and one of the biggest names to emerge during the competition so far is Quilter. Quilter, the rebrand of Old Mutual Wealth, are utilising the coverage afforded by this year’s Autumn Internationals to their advantage with prominent online activation, as well as on-pitch and LED branding.

Sponsorship deals in rugby have seen somewhat of a jump in recent years. In terms of the sheer quantity of deals being done rugby has been attracting some serious business. In total, almost 600 more sponsorship and commercial deals were completed in 2018 compared to 2014 which saw 2,186 commercial deals registered across the biggest leagues in the sport. Today that figure is 2,775.

Whilst the number of deals done peaked in 2017, with 3,121, surprisingly the overall value of those accumulated deals has not dropped. The value of this year’s commercial deals, although there has been almost 350 fewer than in 2017, has remained near enough the same showing that the average sponsorship deal in rugby is increasing in value.

Increases in UK fan numbers

General interest in the sport also remains high. In the UK, 32% of people are said to be interested in rugby, a figure which has grown since 2017 (30%) and as the World Cup approaches that percentage could well increase further.

During the 2015 World Cup, there was a one percentage point uplift of rugby fans across the UK. Following the tournament, 35% of the UK public were considered fans. Increases in fan numbers are exactly what sponsors will look to, especially in the build up to a World Cup in 2019.

Contact Information

Ally Pitfield
Head of Client Services, UK
ally.pitfield@nielsen.com