Rugby the winner as trade joins the pack

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Related tags: Rugby world cup

Rugby and alcohol have long been bedfellows, but more drinks companies than ever are putting money into the sport. Lagers including Budweiser,...

Rugby and alcohol have long been bedfellows, but more drinks companies than ever are putting money into the sport.


Lagers including Budweiser, Budvar and even spirits such as Baileys, Smirnoff and Gordon's have been getting in on the act through advertising, competitions and sponsored editorial in the sport's key press, Rugby News.


Guinness has put £12million behind its sponsorship of this year's Rugby World Cup, hosted by Wales, and another £4million to sponsor ITV's coverage of the event.


All 41 matches will be screened either on ITV or its sister digital channel ITV2.


Tetley's Bitter switched its key sponsorship activity from cricket to rugby in 1997 with a deal securing sponsorship of the England Rugby Union Team, Tetley Bitter Cup (the top rugby union cup competition), the Tetley Bitter Vase for 500 lower league clubs, the county championship and Twickenham itself.


The rationale behind the change was that rugby emphasised the camaraderie and sociability of Tetley's, the sport was dynamic and growing and it gave the brand the opportunity of getting into rugby clubs, both big and small, around the UK.


However, the move may surprise some people as rugby still gets far less TV coverage than football and the number of spectators is falling.


Rugby News assistant editor Jon Edwards said: "Gates are not doing so well. Rugby has always been a participation sport and one of the problems is that many rugby fans play on Saturdays."


Much of the increased attention has come since the game turned professional meaning players are paid which, in turn, led to the arrival in the UK of many foreign top class players.


However, when it comes to opportunities for sponsorship, one of the benefits is that most rugby clubs are looking for support as many of them are in debt.


Edwards said: "Up to two or three years ago most clubs didn't have any sort of marketing department and they are still learning to market themselves properly."


The result has led to many clubs reverting to having part-time players and it seems likely that only the top 10 or so clubs will remain completely professional. It is these clubs, and the national game, which are likely to benefit from the increasing investment from the drinks trade.


The Rugby World Cup starts on October 1 with the final being held on November 6.

Related topics: Sport

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