Welcome to Tuesday Team Talk. Every week, the H+K Sports team will give a unique perspective on the stories making the headlines across the world of sport.
I’m talking about England’s grand slam right? It was there on a plate and went down the drain one afternoon in Dublin. Classic. But England weren’t the only ones to miss an opportunity at the Six Nations, with brands also failing to cash in.
I’m guilty of saying this every year, but this Six Nations has been one of the better ones – certainly in terms of on pitch play which has been physical, fast paced and even controversial at times. An empathic victory over Scotland sealed back to back wins for England, dampened slightly by the Irish who thwarted a potential world record to ruin the chances of a grand slam party. The real showstopper however had to be Wales v France which ended with a dramatic 100th minute try to seal the deal for the Blues.
For all you non-rugby fans out there, that’s 20 minutes longer than a normal game. 20 minutes!
Rugby support as a whole is on the up with both TV viewing figures and stadium attendance rising for both domestic and international fixtures. That said sport viewership as a whole is shifting towards device over TV, mostly across younger audiences with nearly 50% of sports fans aged 18-34 using their phones during a game itself. However rugby, some may say ‘suffers’ from an older audience with 59% of ‘rugby lovers’ being aged 45 or over. Consequently, brands have never had a better opportunity to target this type of demographic: the income of a passionate Six Nations fan is 20 per cent higher than the UK average, making them the most affluent fan group of any popular sport. This increased incomes means the Six Nations audience is more likely to have all the devices synonymous with an ever growing digital age – smart phones, tablets, smart TV – making them an easy target for advertising and marketing.
So why does it feel like this year has been light on brand campaigns?
It kicked off with controversy after BBC Wales’s promotional ad ahead of England v Wales caused twitter uproar amongst English fans. Feeling aggrieved, they took to social creating the ever so familiar swirl that left the BBC forced to pull the ad completely. We’re curious folk and if we’re told we can’t do something, we naturally want to do the opposite so some might ask if this was necessarily a bad thing. Intentional? We’ll never know.

Following the BBC’s ‘light-hearted joke’ however, it’s felt fairly quiet. Already existing rugby campaigns have ticked along, but anything new has been pretty much none existent.
But why?
The Lions Tour of course.
Conversation around the Six Nations has been dominated by individual performances. Social campaigns have focused around ‘pick your Lions team’ and media outlets have had big names selecting their first XV based on the week’s stand out players. It’s featured in all the TV post-match analysis – will he make the squad? Was that the performance that just secured him a place? It’s the question on everyone’s lips. Every four years the Six Nations becomes more than just the battle for the championship bragging rights, it becomes the battle for one of the coveted spots in one of the most prestigious teams in the world.
It’s almost as if in a Lions year, brands feel like they have to make way for those in the elite club of Lions sponsorship. Either that, or they feel that they can’t compete. But is this not an opportunity missed? Some of the best campaigns we saw around the Rugby World Cup were from those that didn’t have an official sponsorship and in sport as a whole, brands are getting cleverer and more creative around activating within a space they technically shouldn’t be in. Let’s not forget that the Six Nations is broadcast on free-to-air TV whereas the Lions is only available on subscription. It means brands have to work harder to get their content out there, but the upside is far greater if you get it right. Yes, the Lions is a big deal, but why does that mean that share of voice around the Six Nations should be skewed towards it? When conversation around rugby union is higher than normal surely this is the time to ensure your voice is heard?
I’m not saying there is a right or a wrong answer to these questions and let’s face it, it isn’t like the Six Nations has gone unnoticed – anything but. Yet it somehow feels different and you can’t deny that rugby campaigns have focused more around the upcoming tour to New Zealand and less around the games happening in the present. Maybe those that sponsor the Six Nations have just accepted that once every four years they’ll be overshadowed by something larger looming on the horizon.
For rugby fans, it’s a double whammy of games to enjoy, but for brands and sponsors, its added competition.
In the world of sport, we compete every day so it will be interesting to see who raises their game next time around.