O2 takes inspiration from samurai culture in Rugby World Cup campaign

England rugby heroes ask fans to be their 'armour' in spot by VCCP.


England rugby captain Owen Farrell and teammates Maro Itoje, Jonny May, Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Elliot Daly appear as warriors dressed in bespoke English Rugby samurai-style armour in O2’s campaign for the Ruby World Cup. 

"Be their armour" breaks on ITV on Sunday (22 September) during England’s first game against Tonga. Created by VCCP, it is based on the idea that the support fans show their team will provide them with the armour needed to help them become world champions. Fans are encouraged to share images of themselves supporting the team, using the hashtag #WearTheRose on social channels.

The 90-second film sees mysterious riders burst into a remote forest settlement to rouse its inhabitants into action. Armour, bearing the England rose emblem, is forged by the fans and fitted to the players, who are then seen ready to face the world with their fans by their side.

It is supported by a six-episode content series, created by Jump, Havas Group Media’s content and partnerships division. It features former England rugby player-turned-pundit Ugo Monye and TV personality Jamie Laing discovering the power and influence of rugby in Japan, ranging from the grassroots game all the way to hosting the World Cup.

The pair kick off the series with a meeting with England head coach Eddie Jones, who is half-Japanese and half-Australian. Each episode then explores a key characteristic of what it means to be an international player via five elements of the Bushido code, which is closely tied to samurai culture: respect, integrity, duty, loyalty and courage.

The "O2 presents: Travel fan in Japan" series breaks tomorrow (19 September), with every episode available to watch through Joe Media, as well as on O2’s social channels.

Nina Bibby, chief marketing officer at O2, said: "As lead partner of England Rugby, we wanted to create a campaign that brings fans closer to the team and galvanises the nation to show their support and wear the rose. Our players have now worn the shield of the samurai, but it will be the support from millions of England Rugby supporters both at home and in Japan that will be their armour on the pitch."

Bibby said that she had been mindful of the need to be respectful to the samurai tradition and avoid using Japanese stereotypes in the campaign by working with Jones and the School of Oriental and African Studies.

O2’s 24-year sponsorship of the England rugby team is the longest-running shirt sponsorship in the world and the existing contract runs until mid-2021.

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