Fans’ Hearts Not The Only Ones Breaking After England’s World Cup Exit


In October, Carat Digital Executive, Seth Tulloch, spent a month working out of Carat’s London office as part of Carat's international scholarship program. ‘Coincidentally’, his trip aligned perfectly with the Rugby World Cup, and he followed with relish the dominance of Southern Hemisphere nations.

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Much has been said about England’s premature exit from the 2015 Rugby World Cup, not all of it suitable for printing. The brutality of the British press toward under-performing home sides is a well-known phenomenon, and among the myriad of calls for review and postmortems, some pretty interesting statistics have emerged.

England’s sorrow at the World Cup actually spawned a fascinating study by the London Business School on the economy of major international sporting competitions. More specifically, the economic impact of a home side being eliminated early in a major international competition, with a focus on football and rugby around the globe.

It turns out that sports results can put a massive dent in investor mood – research found that stock markets typically fall by 0.5% the day after a national home team is eliminated from a major competition.

There have even been estimates that as much as £3 billion could be wiped from the UK stock market as a result of the English bowing out early in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2015.

This came as quite a shock to me – it’s certainly not your first thought when the hosting team gets eliminated (mine was that I should tone down my Australian accent at the pub later), but in retrospect does make sense considering the fickle nature of sports fandom.

Tying this back to the impact on media and advertising, the study highlights the potential risk in sponsoring a sporting event, or more specifically aligning a brand exclusively with a particular team during a major sporting tournament, such as the RWC.

If that team has a poor performance and gets knocked out of competition early, does the brand’s campaign then become redundant and possibly need to be pulled? Could value be lost as local audiences lose interest and TV viewership declines?

Perhaps, but in my opinion it really depends more on how the brand has positioned themselves in that tournament. Heineken and Guinness are two examples of brands I think went about this in the best way.

Instead of putting their weight behind a particular team, Heineken partnered with The Guardian UK to sponsor the RWC hub on the Guardian, featuring tournament and team guides as well as analysis, interviews and opinion pieces from prominent ex-players.

They also created their own Heineken Rugby Studio site, which featured exclusive content such as video interviews and locker room access, again with ex-players and prominent personalities. This positioned the brand as a provider of real value to fans through the creation of high quality digital destinations, with new content added constantly.

By sponsoring and providing destinations for this type of content, Heineken ensured that their presence at the World Cup continued to add value, regardless of the performance of individual teams.

Unlike Heineken, who were an official sponsor of the tournament, Guinness had to carefully navigate the complex rules and agreements around what they could and couldn’t do as a non-sponsoring advertiser during the tour.

The aspect of their campaign that most stood out for me was their reactive social media approach. Their ‘Made of More’ tagline targeted heroic moments and unexpected results throughout the tournament, tailoring the content specifically to be posted minutes after the match concluded. It didn’t feel like an over-the-top brand push – if a match didn’t produce any moments that fit their campaign criteria, they wouldn’t post about it.

So, while some advertisers who put all their proverbial eggs in one basket may have been left licking their wounds after England’s early exit, Heineken and Guinness worked a clever and risk-free angle, staying relevant and involved for the entire duration of the tournament.

For brands looking to make their mark on the international sporting stage, here are my top two things to consider:

1. How are you providing additional value to the audience, beyond the actual games themselves?

Be it making booking tickets easier, providing exclusive content or enabling fans to watch wherever they are, brands need to find a way to stay relevant to fans for the duration of the event, regardless of the outcome.

2. Are making the most of your medium and capitalising on the unexpected thrills that only live sport can deliver?

Don’t miss this priceless opportunity to not only maximise your emotive appeal, but also inject a bit of your brand personality into the conversation.


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