Ahead of the 2017 6 Nations Rugby Championship, Nielsen Sports ‘UK rugby union commercial opportunity report 2016’ examines the social media landscape, the battle for TV audiences between broadcasters and club/country formats of the game, the fan profile, the sponsorship landscape, landmark sponsorship deals and what the future holds with a focus on Japan 2019 and rugby sevens.

“One and a half years on from what was described by the organisers as the biggest and most connected Rugby World Cup ever, with records broken on and off the pitch, we are seeing tremendous opportunities open up for rugby union brands, sponsors and clubs. In 2015, World Rugby provided fans and viewers around the world with the opportunity to witness some unforgettable moments live. In the UK there were 66 million more viewers than the 2011 tournament in New Zealand, and the 2015 edition set new viewership and coverage records in 27 markets as 16,000 hours of action was watched by 70 per cent of the viewing population in key markets.

In the UK and Ireland, the club format of the sport has also gone from strength-to-strength. There has been an influx of new sponsorship deals amongst the club teams and international unions, new title sponsor opportunities and strong investment in social channels – re-emphasising the potential.

As the sport continues to show encouraging signs of growth commercially and with a busy time ahead, Nielsen aims to delve deeper into both the international and domestic game” says Nielsen Sports.

Highlights include:

  • 6 per cent increase in those ‘very interested’ or ‘interested’ in 2016, in comparison to the corresponding period in 2015
  • An increase from 574,000 social media mentions in 2015 to 1,087,166 in 2016, for the 6 Nations Championship. This is an 89% increase year-on-year
  • Club rugby fans are more likely to buy sponsor products than international team fans
  • Club rugby fans are heavier social media users when engaging with sports content than international fans
  • Global rugby sponsorship spend has risen to £362m in 2015, an increase of 21% in 3 years
  • The UK has seen a 16% increase in rugby sponsorship spend in 2015
  • Transportation is the dominant sector for sponsorship, with car manufacturers and airlines two of the biggest sponsor categories. Electronics/technology brands are the only category that rivals airline spend at £15m between 2012-15 in the UK
  • Asia was at the centre of the success story for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The region’s total audience grew by 69 per cent and live audience increased by 221 per cent . A signi cant amount driven by the Japanese team’s performances

Click here to download the UK rugby union commercial opportunity report 2016.

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