The 2015 Rugby World Cup is predicted to boost the UK economy by almost £1 billion. It's a massive opportunity for marketers — but how should they tackle it? From the importance of the huge Welsh fan base to the use of famous players to drive engagement, we pick out four trends to help brands win.

Written by
Harshitha Balini , Julia Waclawiczek
August 2015

Snare the Welsh dragon

Much of the event's UK media coverage is focused on the England team and its performance. But smart brands will look west to Wales: with 44% of the population being rugby supporters, it has the largest rugby fan base in Europe2.

What's more, the strength of support is far greater among the Welsh. 25% of the adult population call themselves rugby lovers, making it one of only two countries where the most ardent fans outnumber the more casual followers. The other is Ireland3.

Wales also leads the online searches for 'Rugby World Cup', followed at quite some distance by England.2


Target the full fan base

Women are almost as keen on rugby as men, with 47% of Rugby Union category visitors being female. The sport also appeals to a broad age range, although the over-55s visitors are almost double the 18-24s, at 31% and 16% respectively.


It's therefore worth taking a closer look at the 55+ audience in the UK. In 2015 it's projected to include 12.3 million internet users, 6.9 million smartphone users and 6.3 million digital video viewers. This age group shops online regularly, with 83% who made an online purchase in the last three months.4

It's definitely an audience for brands to have on their radar.

Harness the power of celebrity

Judging from last year's Football World Cup, heavy use of celebrity players like Renaldo, Beckham and Suarez (by brands from Nike and Adidas to Beats by Dre) can be a key ingredient for a successful online ad with great engagement. Looks like marketers have learned the lesson.

The official Rugby World Cup ad — which gathered almost a million views — featured famous names from Game of Thrones actor Charles Dance to rugby legends like Martin Johnson.

They also learned that having a good online video strategy is key. UK rugby fans consume 6 times more sports content than the average viewer and over half the UK's rugby fans visit YouTube each month.5


And they are happy to watch longer pieces of content if it taps into their passions.

The average length of those Football World Cup ads was 2 minutes 25 seconds, with the Beats ad running at a full 5 minutes and scoring 20 million views.

Longer ads give advertisers time to tell engaging stories, and since many ads will be hosted on YouTube this looks like a smart strategy for Rugby World Cup-focused marketers.

Play the long game: be wise before and after the event

Advertisers can also capitalise on continued interest after the World Cup is over. Search queries tend to increase over time after major sporting events, so marketers should find that it pays to provide content over the following months rather than limiting themselves to a one-event campaign.


Whether before, during or after the Rugby World Cup, brands need to be where their fans are — online.

Three top tips:

  1. Create Rugby World Cup-specific search campaigns, optimising them to align with other ad activities and show up against searches for popular topics, including favourite players, news articles and scores.
  2. Make sure you show up against rising mobile queries by customising your campaigns for mobile users and leveraging mobile ad formats.
  3. Create great content and amplify it online via YouTube.



1: BBC & EY research 2014
2: Google Trends 2015
3: SMG Insight / YouGov 2013
4: eMarketer 2014
5: Google Internal Data