Rugby World Cup was a triumph for Adidas as well as All Blacks

Adidas, Heineken and Mastercard triumphed in the Rugby World Cup brand-association stakes, reveals Liam Hopkins, sponsorship director at Leo Burnett.

Rugby World Cup was a triumph for Adidas as well as All Blacks
Rugby World Cup was a triumph for Adidas as well as All Blacks

The last six weeks have kept us gripped with some incredible rugby and, off the field, we have witnessed some ‘Superbowl-esque’ marketing. Throughout, we have ranked advertisers in our World Cup ‘Brandtasy League’ and now it’s time to discover the winner. 

Despite not being an official tournament sponsor our champion is Adidas, which leveraged its All Blacks sponsorship to perfection and mirrored the success of New Zealand.

Adidas emerged as the brand with the best-perceived fit - the sports brand won the battle against official tournament supplier and England sponsor Canterbury of New Zealand

Adidas finished in the top two of the table every week and its stand out activities included the XV Challenge game, #forceofblack videos, creative Instagram mosaics and, of course, the famous black boots worn by the entire New Zealand squad.

Strong awareness

Our silver medal is shared between two Rugby World Cup sponsors, MasterCard and Heineken, which both made a late surge up the table by amplifying their marketing activity around the final. Mastercard, the official sponsors of the man of the match award, attracted a lot of attention around the final when the All Blacks legend Dan Carter won the award in his last ever International match.

Heineken’s success was driven by strong awareness throughout the tournament, awareness being one key measure of success in deciding the League rankings. The Brandtasy League table ranks 20 major brands which were either Rugby World Cup sponsors, key individual team sponsors or were historically synonymous with rugby.

It took research from the SponsorDNA tool to analyse brand performance based on sponsorship awareness, perceived fit, brand affinity, purchase intent and monitored social engagement of all brands.

A more detailed look at the findings reveals the winners in each individual category:


The brand most associated with the Rugby World Cup, based on spontaneous sponsorship awareness, was Heineken. The brand cleverly used its sole and exclusive asset of providing consumers the chance to toss the coin before each match with its #itsyourcall campaign and invested heavily by using 50% of annual marketing budget on Rugby World Cup sponsorship.

Perceived Fit

Adidas emerged as the brand with the best-perceived fit. The sports brand won the battle against official tournament supplier and England sponsor Canterbury of New Zealand.


The brand with the best affinity score was Lucozade, which finished in the top five overall, driven by the humour and creativity in its ‘strictly for the home nations’ campaign. This featured a whole host of world-famous rugby talent mimicking various accents and traditions.

Purchase Intent

Coca-Cola, despite having a relatively poor World Cup by its own high standards finishing in 10th spot. However, it was the number one brand when it came to purchase intent, driven by an on-pack promotion that gave consumers a chance to win one of 1 million rugby balls.

Social engagement

The social media battle was hotly contested - adidas just lost out to MasterCard, which made a huge commitment to social channels with Facebook and Twitter accounts populated with engaging content throughout the tournament including opportunities to win tickets.

So, there you have it, a top three of Adidas, Heineken and Mastercard. A trio of brands from three different sectors taking the plaudits. The full ranking can be found at

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