Lessons from the Rugby World Cup – is sports sponsorship worth a try for your B2B brand?

As the Rugby World Cup (RWC) reaches its climax, we take a moment to review the ups and downs encountered by the sponsors involved, and to take some valuable leaves from their books.
Here are 4 lessons you can learn from the RWC to help you succeed in sponsorship activities for your own B2B brand.

1. Brand synergy
The key to success in sponsorship activities lies in brand synergy. For example, Land Rover’s We Deal In Real campaign, with the theme “from grassroots rugby to the greatest stage”, brought to life the brand values of rugged strength and technical excellence and cleverly linked everyday experiences with the international event.
Aligning your brand’s aims with a sports team or event is arguably more difficult in B2B, but if you get it right, these relationships can produce an abundance of advantages and demonstrate significant ROI.

2. Audience alignment
You must also extend this brand ‘fit’ to include the target audience of the sport or event. It is no surprise to see banks and investment companies sponsoring golf tournaments and polo matches on the basis that wealthy people are likely to be in attendance.
Samsung’s humorous RWC campaign fronted by comedian Jack Whitehall training with England’s 2003 World Cup heroes was an effective way to engage both rugby fans and those who don’t normally follow the sport, and give the brand a strong personality.

3. Winning strategies
Following the high profile exit of the host nation from the RWC, there’s been much debate over the potential damage to brands associated with losing teams. Businesses considering entering the sports sponsorship arena must evaluate the pros and cons of aligning themselves to potential sporting prowess or failure.
There are a number of strategies that can be employed to minimize this risk. Many RWC sponsors scheduled their activities to maximize the early part of the tournament ahead of teams being knocked out. Those sponsors still active have built in flexibility to their programmes enabling them to adjust their activities throughout the tournament. In addition, the fact that many brands chose to be tournament sponsors rather than team sponsors insulates them against an immediate end to their marketing plans.

4. Home grown
However, it is worth pointing out that, in some circumstances, a business sticking with its home team through thick and thin might actually be of benefit – for example, if it wants to influence a  local audience of customers, supplier or employees.
O2 said it was “here for the ups and the downs” of the RWC and remained committed to its partnership with RFU and the sport of rugby. Dyed in the wool England fans will be heartened to see their own team loyalty is shared by the brand. “We’ll stand beside the team with the same spirit that rugby is watched, played and enjoyed,” said an O2 spokesperson.


No longer solely the domain of B2C marketers, sports sponsorship has grown into an increasingly powerful and popular marketing tool for B2B brands. Investment in B2B sports sponsorship has doubled over the past two decades as firms seek to extend their global reach, tap into the passions of avid sports fans and deepen relationships through corporate hospitality.

Here at Kapler Communications, we get under the skin of our clients’ businesses and have a wide variety of innovative and traditional marketing tools and techniques at our fingertips to meet your brand objectives. So, regardless of whether you’re disappointed with England’s dismal performance or delighted with Wales’ progression in the tournament – or are even a rugby supporter at all – we can ensure a brand fit and marketing strategy that’s a clear winner.