Rugby World Cup: why Land Rover chose the 'blood, sweat and dirt' of the sport

With the Rugby World Cup on UK soil this year, home brands are flocking to the sport but Land Rover has a two decade-long grassroots support of the sport to shout about.

Land Rover is taking the Rugby World Cup trophy on a 100 day tour
Land Rover is taking the Rugby World Cup trophy on a 100 day tour
In the creative we are celebrating the physicality of the sport not the risk of blood

As the Rugby World Cup nears, many brands are starting to activate their sponsorship campaigns. Take a deep breath: DHL is hoping it will ‘emotionalise’ its brand, Samsung is going multi-platform with England rugby star brand ambassadors, Canon is taking fans behind the scenes with Bear Grylls, O2 is putting its longstanding England shirt sponsorship in the spotlight, Heineken is hoping it will boost European sales, Mastercard can name five reasons why it decided to sponsor and Coca-Cola just thinks it’s a no-brainer.

For Land Rover, as both a brand with a British heritage and a two decade-long grassroots supporting role in rugby, it’s going to be about shouting its authenticity with its #WeDealInReal campaign. Marketing spoke to Jaguar Land Rover UK marketing director Laura Schwab about the strategy behind the brands Rugby World Cup (RWC) activity.

As a long time rugby supporter, how has the strategy changed for the World Cup campaign this time round?

Our rugby strategy hasn’t changed for Rugby World Cup 2015 – it’s just a development of the approach we have taken for years. Land Rover is a long term supporter of rugby at all levels in the UK and around the world, and for this particular sponsorship Land Rover has chosen to focus on celebrating the grassroots level of the game.

Does the Rugby World Cup being in the UK mean it's tougher to gain cut through?

This is the biggest Rugby World Cup ever staged and as a brand born in the UK, the location of the tournament gives us an even greater opportunity. Land Rover is a brand with personality and character, RWC 2015 gives us a chance to demonstrate our voice, one that is genuine and authentic. Being in the UK means that more of the people watching will know our brand and engage with it.

What does that mean for your strategy?

The UK being the host market hasn’t necessarily influenced our overall RWC strategy. We do have significant heritage and experience in grassroots rugby here in the UK, which has allowed us to integrate our grassroots programmes with the tournament.  

One example of this is our mascot programme; Land Rover is recruiting all 96 mascots for RWC and the majority of these have been sourced from the Land Rover Premiership Cup, which is our annual grassroots programme. The competition attracts 7,000 youngsters each year and we are about to celebrate our 10th season, a figure we are very proud of.

Why take a grassroots approach?

We are proud to have supported not only the elite end of the game but also grassroots clubs and tournaments around the world for over 20 years.  It’s a privilege that has given us a true understanding of the game and the values that make the spirit of rugby so special. That’s why instead of focusing on the glitz and the glamour of the professional tournament, we have chosen to shine the spotlight on some of the smallest, most remote, most deserving rugby clubs around the world. These clubs, and the amazing characters who represent the true spirit of the game, will take to the global stage thanks to Land Rover’s #WeDealInReal sponsorship campaign. It’s something no other Rugby World Cup sponsor has done before. We hope to champion and celebrate the real stories and legends who make rugby the sport we all know and love.

Why rugby? In the creative for your campaign you mention 'We deal in blood, sweat and dirt' - does the aggressive element of the sport make it risky for brands?

Land Rover and Rugby have many shared values – integrity, courage, pride, composure, capability – values that are required to create great competitive rugby and world class all-terrain vehicles.

Rugby is an evolving sport which is built around strength of character; the mental fortitude, will and determination to push yourself physically and mentally to achieve great things.  A strong set of shared values which binds the rugby community from the grassroots to the elite. The Land Rover brand is determined and tenacious, built upon a core equity of strength. Land Rover’s target audience are ‘Active Achievers’ who value strength of character and have the determination, physical and mental fortitude to push boundaries.

In the creative we are celebrating the physicality of the sport not the risk of blood.

How will this campaign play out as you get closer to the main event?

We have been building up to the Tournament itself since May 2014 when we partnered with England Rugby 2015 and DHL for the International Trophy Tour which took the Webb Ellis Cup to 15 different countries around the world. Since then our RWC activity has been kicking off in key global markets with customer and employee engagement, mascot recruitment, ambassador appearances and grassroots events.

Over the coming weeks, as we build towards 18th September, Land Rover will continue to be at the heart of a lot of different RWC activities such as the Domestic Trophy Tour which sees a bespoke Land Rover Defender carrying the Webb Ellis Cup on a 100 day tour of the UK & Ireland. We will also engage further with grassroots clubs through our #WeDealInReal social and digital campaign, recruiting the final few mascots and the start of our global retailer engagement.

Land Rover has secured broadcast partnerships in seven different markets and broadcast idents will begin to air in the final few weeks before the tournament, with ITV premièring the Land Rover idents for the opening match on the 18th September.

During the Tournament itself, we have a lot more to come. We have engaged with our retailers and we'll have local screenings across the UK. Now our #WeDealInReal campaign has fully launched, the next few weeks will be very exciting as everything we have been planning since 2011 comes to fruition.