Can marketing restore English rugby's battered reputation? The Marketing Society Forum

Can marketing restore English rugby's battered reputation? The Marketing Society Forum
Can marketing restore English rugby's battered reputation? The Marketing Society Forum

Governing body the RFU is taking a fresh approach, focusing on discipline, integrity and teamwork.


Any sport-related marketing campaign should bridge the perceived gap between the fans and players. Supporters want to see commitment, dedication and passion from their team.
These values should be prevalent in the RFU's engagement of its fans. The connection between players and fans can be effectively enhanced using various marketing tools and techniques, including digital and social platforms.
The tone of the RFU's engagement with fans must be carefully judged - this is a time for rebuilding trust and restoring belief.
Ultimately, marketing will take this only so far. Sporting success remains the most effective means of unifying fans and players.


The marketing push unveiled by the RFU, for fancy websites and player accessibility, will help, at least a little, but really it's superficial. Core to the product proposition is the players and the way they behave, both on and off the field. Unfortunately, not all professional sports people were at the front of the queue when it comes to brains or even common sense.
So I put player discipline ahead of marketing to restore the game's reputation. But hell, let's be clear: start playing some decent flowing rugby and winning some games (like the Welsh team) and, as far as the public is concerned, the players can misbehave to their hearts' content.


Rugby is a sport where reputation is earned on the field and supported and enhanced off it. It can be dented off the field, but, if the indiscretion is not serious, be salvaged (somewhat) if great performances are delivered.
The New Zealand team is a testament to this; far from saintly during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the players went on to win and that is what will be remembered. England, having failed at the first knockout stage, are instead remembered for dwarves, kisses and ferry jumps. If a team has no standards and can't string together performances to beat the best, no amount of marketing will make it shine more brightly in the fans' eyes.


The reputation of English Rugby, like any brand, relies on the product - if that is no good, the best marketing in the world will not make up for its inadequacies.
If the England team starts winning and playing exciting rugby again, the fans will engage, the media will gush again and the brand will strengthen.
Marketing a poor product - a national team or anything else - will serve only to waste time and budget. Sort the product out first.


As Leroy Stick aka @BPGlobalPR famously said, the best way to get the public to respect your brand is to have a respectable brand. We’ve moved into an era where to be credible, and thus effective, marketing must be driven by behaviour and reality, not image. So whilst I applaud the RFU marketing initiative, reputationally it will have little effect if the England team continue to under-perform on the field and misbehave off it, and if the RFU doesn’t follow through – and be seen to follow through - on the programme of reformed governance and cultural change it has signalled. Stuart Lancaster’s decision to move England’s RBS Six Nations training to Leeds and open it up to the public is a great start, but there’s a long way to go.

Follow the debate online Can marketing restore the standing of the England rugby union team?


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer