Heineken Rugby Studio: the lager brand has created a platform featuring big names from rugby
Heineken Rugby Studio: the lager brand has created a platform featuring big names from rugby
A view from Tom Bazeley

Why are the Rugby World Cup sponsors avoiding Twitter during the games?

The Rugby World Cup sponsors' social newsroom efforts have been surprisingly lacking, leaving M&C Saatchi chief executive Tom Bazeley feeling a little underwhelmed.

A year ago, I sat in a large meeting room at a media agency to discuss the merits of a second screen strategy for a client’s Rugby World Cup campaign. The weight of statistical evidence on people’s use of Twitter during big and live sporting events is difficult to ignore, and makes a compelling case for any brand wanting to show their support.

So I was surprised not to see any live updates when I searched for #itsyourcall – not even a glimmer of Will Carling’s bum chin!.

It wasn’t long before a proposal emerged for a comprehensive live service featuring up to the minute commentary by suitable personalities, explanations of the rules, killer stats and blistering insight.

So, all the things that broadcasters and publishers do pretty well at the moment then?

Oh. And there lies the problem.

Is it possible for a brand to capitalise on the in-match action, in a way that separates them from organisations that report on sport for a living?

High hopes

To find out who’s doing what, I tuned in to Scotland versus Australia on the box and, armed with two phones, an ipad and a laptop, sought out any imaginative uses of Twitter by sponsors, broadcasters and anyone else.

I had high hopes for Heineken. The Heineken Rugby Studio, situated at Twickenham, has been a platform for some big names (Lomu, Carling and Quinnell) to comment on the tournament as it unfolds. A hashtag had been widely publicised to glue all the social chatter together.

So I was surprised not to see any live updates when I searched for #itsyourcall – not even a glimmer of Will Carling’s bum chin!

Tweeting coverage

Land Rover is a brand that has more right than any other to associate with the game of rugby. This was born out by its simple and effective use of Twitter during the game. An example came in the 18th minute.

My five-year-old had found a spent shotgun cartridge in a field and had it soaking in some soapy water in the kitchen. Adamant that it needed cleaning that very second, I had to break away from the TV and my second, third, fourth and indeed fifth screens for a couple of minutes. Inevitably, Scotland scored while I was gone.

By the time I returned, the replays were over and I had no more information than the scoreline. The Land Rover Twitter page within a matter of seconds had told me it was Horne that scored, and even proved it with a photo. Simple, helpful, thank you.

As for the other members of the RWC sponsor family… 

Emirates? Nothing.

Mastercard? Nada.

DHL? #notabean.

Soc Gen? Didn’t even bother looking.

Feeling a little underwhelmed I tried out the official hashtag of the tournament, #rugbyworldcup. Now is not the time to question the sanity or motivation of people that Tweet during such a scintillating match. But I’m glad they did. With ten to 20 new updates every few seconds, I got an instant, authentic, and amusing accompaniment to what I was watching through the idiot’s lantern. 

Some highlights for me were;

Northern hemisphere pundits blaming the clement weather and hard ground for the southern hemisphere dominance. Good try.

The fleeting adoption of Scotland by the English. People rubbing their eyes in disbelief at doing so, but getting behind them anyway (Welsh fans take note).

A clearly drunk JK Rowling tapping out incoherent Tweets about not much at all.

A stream of ‘An Englishman, Irishman, Welshman walk into a bar’ jokes.

Buckfast Wine logos being used for profile pictures.

People mistaking Marmite for Vegemite.

Princess Anne falling asleep.

Xenophobia (good natured).

Harper Collins’ cack handed attempt to flog Michael Lynagh’s forthcoming autobiography.

And of course, a Scot so high on booze that he’d fallen asleep with his kilt around his waist. And no, he wasn’t. 

It added texture to what I was watching. A lot of it utterly forgettable rubbish. But a lot of it got into the spirit of the game and affected how I saw it unfold. It flipped it from me watching a game at the same time as millions of others, to me and millions of others watching a game.

And then up stepped Craig Joubert. A South African referee who, in the last 30 seconds of the match simultaneously finished Scotland’s hopes and his career by incorrectly awarding Australia a penalty.

Within minutes Joubert memes started cropping up. Imaginative, funny, quick and all of which made a mockery of the game’s pantomime villain.

It would be good to see what a brand could do if it released itself, even temporarily, from its guidelines to behave in a similar way. Probably quite a lot.