Over The Gain Line: 3 of the World’s Best Rugby Activations


Here in Verve we’re mad about rugby and luckily we get to work with clients across some of the sport’s biggest tournaments. With the Rugby World Cup starting, we’ve chosen three brands who have set the bar when it comes to seizing the attention of fans and increasing their brand awareness.

Mastercard Player of the Match Trophy

To start, we’ve rolled back the clock to 2019 when Mastercard, preferred card of the Rugby World Cup, executed a flawless strategy that saw them win Best Technology-led Innovation of the Year at the Drum Marketing Awards Europe in 2020. 

Through their sponsorship of the Player of the Match awards (POTM), Mastercard sought to drive brand awareness and engagement and showcase their innovation capabilities. To do this, they boldly chose to replace the traditionally identical POTM awards with a unique trophy featuring moments from the very fixture that had ended minutes before. 

But how was this achieved? For every game, rugby experts created a catalogue of emotive commentary snippets using an audio-to-text software. Simultaneously, a custom-built API tracked Twitter for spikes in fan engagement, which were then cross-checked against the commentary shortlist. From this, 15 match highlights were selected – one for every player on the team. The trophy was then presented to the POTM minutes after the final whistle blew. 

By the end of the tournament, 45 players had received their utterly unique trophy and delivered some particularly impressive results:

  • Mastercard achieved 80% share over voice among other RWC2019 sponsors
  • Cumulative reach of 3.06 billion across social and broadcast  
  • 348 pieces of individual global coverage 

What we loved about this activation was how Mastercard saw, and seized, the opportunity to transform a somewhat repetitive occurrence and transform it into a tangible outcome, allowing the experiences of the match to live long after the clock went red.

Guinness – Make It A St. Patrick’s Day To Remember

In 2019, Guinness signed a six-year Title Sponsorship deal with the Six Nations and since then has steadily cemented its association with the Championship. However, this year they altered their approach by using the partnership as a vehicle to help activate their largest ever responsible drinking campaign. 

The promotion of responsible drinking in sport is not new to Guinness, as in 2019 they encouraged fans to enjoy a pint of Guinness Clear and Make It a Match To Remember. However, in 2023, they raised the bar in terms of the scale in which Guinness 0.0 featured across the Championship. Not only did the 0.0 logo feature on match day assets, such as pitch markings, Guinness also tied their Title Sponsorship into their Make It A St. Patrick’s Day To Remember campaign.

The objective was to distribute 50,000 free pints of Guinness 0.0 across the island of Ireland in over 300 locations, including the Aviva Stadium – the venue for the finale of the Six Nations Championship between Ireland and England. By offering fans a complimentary pint of Guinness 0.0, Guinness reinforced to patrons its belief in enjoying alcohol responsibly. 
In its own context, the Make It St. Patrick’s Day To Remember campaign was an outstanding success yielding several impressive results while more specifically in a rugby context it has fortified Guinness’ association with the Six Nations Championship as it enters the 6th year of its partnership.

Everyone in Verve was proud to support both elements of the campaign, during which: 

  • Over 4.500 Guinness 0.0 samples served across both home fixtures 
  • 16 pieces of Guinness 0.0 specific earned media achieved

Sage – Official Insights Partner of the Guiness Six Nations

For our third and final activation, we’re staying in 2023 but this time highlighting the work of Sage, Official Insights Partner of the Guinness Six Nations. It is well known that at top-level sport is often dictated by the smallest of margins and so Sage sought to amplify their sponsorship by giving fans insights into these margins live on screen.

Using built-in AI technology, the smart ball communicated with various sensors around the stadium up to 20 times per second thus allowing Sage to gather powerful insights into the game such as ball reload time at the ruck, kick hand times and territorial gains. These stats were then displayed on-screen after key moments and therefore giving patrons a deeper understanding of the match being played.

But as the new kid (brand) on the block, Sage needed to make a bigger impact than just the data alone. Therefore, they also ran a social media campaign both before and during the tournament to amplify the awareness of their partnership. 

First an explainer video was published to illustrate the insights fans could expect and called upon some recognisable faces including legends Sam Warburton, Tommy Bowe, Maggie Alphonsi and George Gregan – adding an extra layer of excitement amongst fans. What’s more, Sage worked with Ben Kayser to produce a version for the French market. 

This edit was later supported by a standalone series Insightful Discussions during which former captains from each of the competing nations offered captivating detail on what it’s like to lead, motivate and empower your team. 

Here in Verve we’re all about the small details that make the biggest difference and were therefore very impressed with Sage’s strategy of seizing the opportunity to give fans an added layer of experience that had never been offered before.  

If you are looking to create some unique brand experiences or want to bring your sponsorships to life then our team would love to help!

Get in touch here

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