Adidas, Lucozade and Guinness trump official sponsors in Rugby World Cup race

The first week of the Rugby World Cup has been full of surprises, with Japan beating South Africa. Brands are also pulling a few punches with some interesting results, writes Emily Williams from Arc Sponsorship, part of Leo Burnett.

Rugby World Cup: which brands are faring best?
Rugby World Cup: which brands are faring best?

Twenty teams, 260 players, and hundreds of brands are taking part in the Rugby World Cup, which kicked off last Friday. Sponsors and non-sponsors have deluged us with brand campaigns featuring ambassadors, partnerships, social media, and experiential to grab our attention.

Arc’s Brandtasy League ranks sponsors and non-sponsors based on their performance during the Rugby World Cup.

The League uses research generated by our Sponsor DNA tool to investigate sponsorship awareness, perceived fit, brand affinity, purchase intent and monitor social engagement of 20 brands.

Worldwide Partners of the World Cup, Emirates and DHL, have fallen towards the bottom of the league

Ahead of the tournament the odds were so pronounced towards the favourites that shock results seemed highly unlikely.

However, as we have seen over recent days, it’s been a case on the field of "expect the unexpected" with Georgia overcoming Tonga and Japan beating South Africa in the final minutes of the match.

Brands too are capable of springing a surprise

The three brands topping the Brandtasy League are Lucozade and Adidas (joint first) and Guinness, perhaps predictably.

None of these brands are official sponsors of the World Cup but all have associations with the sport and have heavily activated around the Rugby World Cup. In addition to having high awareness figures they also score highly for purchase intent, brand affinity and social engagement.

However, the surprise success of the weekend is sport and active wear brand Canterbury NZ, which has "done a Japan" and jumped into fourth place.

While its awareness figures remain lower than some of the big name sponsors, its brand affinity score increased by 10 points over the first weekend to 55%.

Meanwhile, Worldwide Partners of the World Cup, Emirates and DHL, have fallen towards the bottom of the league. Emirates dropped eight places down the table, mainly due to lower levels of perceived fit. It fell 11 points on this measure with purchase intent and brand affinity also down, both by eight points.

 The growth in social engagement across all brands monitored within the League is a trend

Arc’s Brandtasy League is not all encompassing and can only track the performance of 20 selected brands but this does create the potential for outsiders to cause a stir.

Brands to keep an eye on

Keep an eye on Beats by Dre, which has staged ambush activity using three players that will feature in the World Cup - Chris Robshaw, Richie McCaw and Wesley Fofana.

Like Beats, SpecSavers is not included in the League but sought to capitalise on the tournament with rugby-themed ads on ITV during the broadcast of the weekend’s games.

A further trend is the growth in social engagement across all brands monitored within the League, as brands start to produce reactive content. A great example was Guinness (pictured), which ran an ad following Japan’s surprising victory at the weekend.

Expect more of these tactics as brands battle for their own kind of tournament victory.

To view the league in all its glory, visit:

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