Six Nations Rugby: Making the most of it

By Phil Mellows

- Last updated on GMT

Six Nations Rugby: Making the most of it

Related tags: Rugby union, Six nations championship, Rugby, Six nations

As England prepares to host the Rugby World Cup next September, the Six Nations tournament, which kicks off in February, is set to be even bigger than usual, and pubs could find themselves entertaining a whole new demographic.

"It will be like the 2012 Olympics," says Guinness marketing manager Nick Britton. "We’re anticipating a huge surge of interest as we go into 2015, and the die-hard rugby fan will be joined by what we’re calling the ‘Rugby Flirt’.

"Rugby is already the number two sport in the UK behind football, the media is pushing it up the agenda, and we’ve already seen a broader audience at the autumn internationals."

As the official beer of the RBS Six Nations, Guinness will be building on a 40-year association with rugby by helping publicans attract fans and create a great atmosphere across five weekends of action.

Last year, only a quarter of the country’s 13.1 million rugby followers watched a game in the pub, and Katerina Podtserkovskaya, who is responsible for activating Guinness’s on-trade promotions, calculates that getting the other three quarters in for just one match will be worth £36.8m to the trade.

Free pints

So the brand is working with live sport search website Match Pint to lure fans out of their armchairs and into the pub with a buy-one-pint, get-a-pint-for-a-mate free, offer.

In a trial last year, those claiming the free pint stayed for an average of two hours in the pub, spending another £18.

"It’s an easy mechanic for pubs to use, and we’re also offering licensees 50% off their first annual subscription to Match Pint so they can
continue to attract sports fans,"
says Podtserkovskaya.

And on top of a £4m media campaign around the tournament, Guinness is upgrading its Six Nations point-of-sale kit. Worth £70, it will be sent to 6,000 rugby pubs and includes a giant Guinness rugby ball, a rugby pitch bar runner, a themed surround and tap for the Guinness ‘gate’ font, jerseys for bar staff and fixture lists.

"It will help pubs create the kind of atmosphere that our research shows rugby fans want — along with, of course, excellent viewing. After all, it’s the game they’ve come to see!"

For Beds & Bars’ Belushi’s chain, getting the 2015 RBS Six Nations right will be crucial.

"It’s a prime opportunity to showcase our venues as the best bars for rugby and ensure fans come back," says marketing manager Sophie Herbert. "We’ll make sure we have the best screen and bar layout to maximise space, as well as the correct offers and products for the customer profiles we expect.

"We’ll be running data capture mechanics to create a huge database to target for the World Cup, and we’ll be using competitions to win a VIP package for World Cup games in our venues as well as at the grounds."

With customers from all over the world, Belushi’s won’t be choosing sides. The core of the offer is a special burger menu, with each themed to one of the competing teams and paired with a national beer.

"It worked really well last year, driving sales through the live matches as well as during normal trading times," says Herbert. "It’s about offering something different, but sticking to what you know, as well as quick and easy serves."


Pre-paid packages to encourage people to come in and eat an hour before kick-off will include a burger and a beer, prime viewing position and drinks tokens.

"The post-match time is also a massive opportunity. We create a party as soon as the final whistle goes with kick-ass playlists and happy hours. Customers are less likely to leave when the atmosphere is great and there’s a chance of a few more beers!

"We screen re-runs in the week, too, so you can pop out at lunch, grab a Six Nations burger and catch the highlights."

How two temples to the game tackle the job on international match days


Two of the UK’s iconic rugby pubs are in training for the Six Nations — the Cabbage Patch in Twickenham and the Old Arcade in Cardiff.

Stuart Green has managed the Cabbage Patch for Fuller’s for 17 years, and he’s noticed big changes in his rugby fan clientele.

"There are more females and families — which is a credit to the sport, really. It makes for a safe, fun environment, and I think the rise of the women’s game has helped, too.

"The Six Nations has grown during the years, and this time it’ll be humongous. They are the biggest games of the season for us, and we learn a lesson every time about how we can improve the operation."

Preparation starts three weeks ahead of kick-off when Green will be making sure he’s lined up enough beer and staff — 50 will be on duty on a match day, serving up to 2,000 customers from 10.30am.

"We’re so busy we reduce our offering so service is quick and efficient, and we have three bars and a barbecue outside to take the pressure off. No one is more than 20 metres from a service point, and fans compliment us on how they can get served with relative ease."

Brains’ Old Arcade has reopened after a major makeover in the autumn. It’s now decked out with even more rugby memorabilia and is serving a new menu including a signature Celtic Pride burger created in conjunction with British Lions star Martyn Williams plus a pair of limited-edition ales — Powerhouse and Swift Half — brewed in collaboration with former Wales internationals Bob Norster and Rob Jones.

There’s a new manager, too. Lee Hazell used to run the multiple award-winning Famous Three Kings sports pub in London.

"When I got the call from Brains there was no way I could turn the job down," he says. "It’s such an iconic venue.

"For the Six Nations you’ve got to do it right and in a special way. We’ll be getting all the furniture out of the way, opening the doors up and serving people as fast as possible. The food has to be quick and easy, perhaps pizzas to share and hotdogs.

"You also have to have the right music — a mix of indie, rock and pop featuring Welsh bands and songs everyone knows, so they can have a singalong."

The games, weekend by weekend

February 6/7

Fri: 8.05pm - Wales v England
Sat: 2.30pm - Italy v Ireland
Sat: 5pm - France v Scotland

February 14/15

Sat: 2.30pm - England v Italy
Sat: 5pm - Ireland v France
Sun: 3pm - Scotland v Wales

February 28/March 1

Sat: 2.30pm - Scotland v Italy
Sat: 5pm - France v Wales
Sun: 3pm - Ireland v England

March 14/15

Sat: 2.30pm - Wales v Ireland
Sat: 5pm - England v Scotland
Sun: 3pm - Italy v France

March 21

Sat: 12.30pm - Italy v Wales
Sat: 2.30pm - Scotland v Ireland
Sat: 5pm - England v France

Related topics: Sport

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