Rugby World Cup: Early morning matches presents marketing catch-up challenge


With the Rugby World Cup kicking off later this month in Japan, most matches will be live early in the morning UK time, with 30% of fans already anticipating they will use ITV Hub to catch-up on the games, according to new research.


The study by GlobalWebIndex, finds that this year’s Rugby World Cup will be both an opportunity and challenge for marketers – whilst providing key learnings ahead of the Summer Olympics next year in Tokyo.

Conducted among 1,967 UK consumers, the survey shows 44% of UK consumers will be watching Rugby World Cup with half of this audience stating they will be watching ‘most’, if not all matches. In fact, 14% of Rugby World Cup fans - who will watch most of the games - state they will be travelling to Japan to see the games in person.

Key findings:

• 14% UK consumers intend to travel to Japan to watch this year’s tournament.
• 44% set to tune into the Rugby World Cup, 30% anticipate watching the games on ITV Hub to catch-up - due to time difference.
• Defending champions, New Zealand, are the favourites among UK based fans. A third (34%) of fans believe England will win.
• Official sponsor vs unofficial sponsor wars continues: Only just Heineken is the most associated brand (43%) to the tournament followed by Guinness (41%).
• 34% of UK fans believe England will win the tournament, while 30% think New Zealand will win again
• Dark horses – 9% of UK fans see Wales and South Africa as potential winners
• Europe hosts the majority of Rugby World Cup engagers (38%)

Chris Beer, Senior Trends Analyst at GlobalWebIndex comments, “It’s highly likely that many fans are currently unaware of the time displacement that will impact their experience of this year’s Rugby World Cup. With many consumers catching up on the tournament through a variety of channels, the opportunity for advertisers will be plentiful, but balancing the number of opportunities with the experience audiences have will be important to bear in mind and learnings noted ahead of the Summer Olympics next year.”

The home of world rugby

A separate study in Q2 2019 of 30,864 internet users in 13 countries identifies Europe as home of the majority of Rugby World Cup engagers with 38% following the tournament, followed by Africa (26%). Interestingly, despite being hosts of the tournament only 6% of Japan engage with the Rugby World Cup.

As for team affiliation, six in every ten Rugby World Cup fans in the UK will indeed be supporting the England team and many anticipate a strong finish. 35% expect England will reach the semi-final and 37% can see the team making it to the final.

However, they see close competition for the title. A third (34%) of fans believe England will win, but 30% foresee the defending champions, New Zealand, repeating their 2015 victory. 9% of UK fans also see Wales and South Africa as potential dark horses of the tournament.

Brand Turnout

With a significant proportion of fans set to catch up on ITV Hub, its notable that Rugby World Cup fans are very tolerant of ads on TV streaming services. 87% of fans express they don’t mind these ads, so long as they can see the content whenever they want (27%), the video plays in good quality (27%) or the service is free (45%).

Heineken and Mastercard, who are lead sponsors, come first and third respectively, as the brands most associated with the Rugby World Cup sponsorship with just 43% and 36% awareness respectively.


Despite not being an official sponsor of the tournament, Guinness claims second place as the brand most people think of as official partners of the Rugby World Cup with 41% of votes from UK consumers. This comes following the brand taking on title sponsorship for the first time for the 6 Nations tournament that took place earlier this year.

Chris Beer concludes “When we looked at sponsorship awareness at the beginning of 2019 ahead of the 6 Nations, it was clear Guinness had some work to do, in order to build awareness amongst fans, as they had taken the title sponsor role. The awareness they now enjoy is testament to the power of broadcast advertising, it’s also a very positive sign of the rewards brands including Heineken and Mastercard will reap when the games kick-off.”


● Pollpass respondents were 1,967 UK consumers, amongst which 357 were identified as Rugby World Cup fans/engagers.
● Q2 2019 survey were 6,783 Rugby World Cup engagers in the UK and 30,864 global engagers.
● In reference to “13 countries” - these include the majority of the countries/teams that have qualified for the Rugby World Cup - France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, UK, Russia, Argentina, Canada, USA, South Africa, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.

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