World Rugby launches new identity campaign to yield commercial success for women's game
By Euan Cunningham
Commercial success is an imperative criterion in a new 'Women in Rugby' campaign and brand identity launch, Katie Sadleir, general manager for women’s rugby at World Rugby, has told Sportcal.
The sport's international governing body today unveiled a new brand proposition and global identity campaign for the women's game entitled ‘Try and Stop Us’.
The campaign, which features several marketing initiatives and a new women's rugby website, aims to make the brand of women’s rugby more appealing on a commercial level to potential partners and sponsors, as well as to increase participation and engagement in the sport among the public.
Speaking to Sportcal ahead of the campaign’s launch, Sadleir, who has been in the job since 2016, said: “We need brand proposition; we need something attractive for commercial partners in order to actually see the benefits of this campaign.”
That is the main aim for the women's game at the moment, according to Sadleir, who added that her part of the organisation is only now finally arriving at “a proper commercial strategy.”
She continued: “We haven’t really looked at women’s rugby specifically from a commercial perspective yet – now we are. I’m not saying it’s been under-valued commercially, but we can definitely make it more attractive and engaging for brands and prospective sponsors.”
Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, said at today's launch: “By launching this unique brand identity and proposition today we are demonstrating our unwavering commitment to growing participation and exposure for women’s rugby around the globe, a core strand of the women in rugby action plan.”
Bill Beaumont, World Rugby’s chairman, added: “We firmly believe that the development of women in rugby is the single greatest opportunity for our sport to grow in the next decade, which is why we are proud to share our exciting new brand identity today.”Sadleir, a former Olympic swimmer for New Zealand, added that the organisation is still only in year two of an eight-year overall plan to develop all aspects of women’s rugby, and that there is plenty of work still to do.
Although she said that the campaign is not targeting specific brands yet, the 54-year-old claimed that women’s rugby can become a brand and proposition that is exciting for potential sponsors in that time frame.
She said: “I wouldn’t say we’re really looking at specific brands or brands that are particularly endemic to women’s sport yet… At the moment it’s all about just developing our brand proposition, and trying to make ourselves as attractive as possible to sponsors.”
In a bid to develop an attractive and more competitive product, the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, scheduled to take place in New Zealand, will be the first to feature increased squad sizes, an extension of the tournament window from 28 to 35 days (aimed at promoting player welfare) and the addition of a quarter-final stage.
The 2017 competition in Ireland was the best-attended and most-watched to date, according to World Rugby.
The World Rugby council meeting this week also marks the first time that the council’s 17 new female members will attend, in what will be the largest representation of women on the ruling body. In late 2017, World Rugby increased the number of people who can sit on its ruling council from 32 to 49, with all of the 17 new representatives to be women.Considering other sporting organisations which have tried to generate a specific interest in women’s sport, Sadleir has studied Uefa, the European governing body for soccer.
She said: “You can’t help but be impressed at what Uefa do, they're very dedicated and forward-thinking in growing the women's game.”
While suggesting that rugby should not seek to replicate directly Uefa’s strategy, Sadleir added it was something to bear in mind when looking at a business plan for women’s rugby.
Last week, Uefa launched its first dedicated Women’s Football Strategy, a five-year strategic framework, which “will focus on building the foundations within Uefa and its member associations to give European women’s soccer the best possible platform to thrive.”
It also appointed an agency to specifically market its portfolio of women’s sponsorship rights packages, and last December, Visa, the worldwide credit card provider, signed a seven-year sponsorship agreement with the governing body to become the first standalone sponsor for the women’s game at all levels, with Nike, the US sportswear brand, following suit with the ball supplier contract in March.