How the Rugby World Cup is creating the ultimate fan experience

Abi Owers



This Friday (20th September) is the kick-off of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and organisers are promising new levels of fan engagement which they believe will take the sport to a whole new audience.

20 nations will go head-to-head in the battle for the William Webb Ellis trophy and this tournament looks set to be the biggest yet since its inception in 1987. Organisers estimate that broadcast figures will top 800 million and games will reach 217 territories across the globe.

For the first time, the tournament will embrace new technology including augmented reality (AR) graphics during matches, 4K UHD and 8K broadcasts. Games will also be covered by more cameras than ever before to bring fans as close to the action as possible.

Why is fan engagement so important?

You may wonder why World Rugby feels the need to implement so much new technology but, aside from the action, there are wider objectives for the tournament. We live in a digital world where content is available at the touch of a button, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so in order to deliver ‘the ultimate fan experience’ content needs to not just be engaging but also available across a multitude of platforms.

Research shows that 22% of global internet users say that following a sporting event is the main reason they use social networks, which suggests there is an appetite for more tailored and accessible content.

World Rugby is clearly learning from its Premier League and NFL counterparts that TV is falling behind smartphones, tablets and online streaming when it comes to us watching sporting content. Statistics show that the value of the Premier League’s TV rights was lower for the 2019/20 season than previous years. In addition, the NFL’s showpiece event, the Super Bowl, saw a decline in TV audience figures. So, organisers need to go further to engage current fans and capture new ones.

How can technology help?

Like every business, World Rugby has aims and objectives it needs to achieve throughout the tournament. Its wider aims are to grow the game globally, attract a new generation of fans and reach non-traditional markets. The hope is that, by using technology to create engaging content, they’ll be able to achieve these goals. The world is watching so let’s hope the tournament delivers.

Our content arm, Trunk, has worked with a number of major brands on sporting projects including Greene King’s Man On and Great British Summer of Sport mobile games, a virtual reality experience for Macclesfield Town FC, Marston’s World Cup Match Predictor and Subway’s Green Zone campaign in association with the NFL.

Beyond creating fun and compelling content to keep users engaged with their brand, Trunk also use gamification techniques to help campaigns drive commercial value for clients, for example developing a proprietary competition and voucher system, which can reward users with freebies and discounts for playing, helping to drive footfall to pubs and retailers.

Brands are able to reach new audiences by embracing technology, so if you’re looking for innovative ways to engage with clients, contact our team of experts to see how we can help.