Rugby | SUNBIZ

Rugby Sponsorship Options

Rugby is the leading sport in Fiji based on the number of people playing or otherwise involved in it on a regular basis. Yet it has always struggle to attract
31 Dec 2016 11:03
Rugby Sponsorship Options
Rugby fans welcome the Fiji Sevens team in style after the Olympic Gold Medal win.

Rugby is the leading sport in Fiji based on the number of people playing or otherwise involved in it on a regular basis.

Yet it has always struggle to attract sufficient dollar volume in sponsorship to cover all the areas the management would like to address.

Income from match attendance is not a really large contributor, with all but the highest profile matches attracting only marginal crowds and sport as a whole in Fiji being very limited in the amount that can be charged at the gate.

Income from Rugby product is also quite limited due to the fact that merchandise pricing also has a tight range in which it can move.

Most of the Fiji Rugby licensed product is already at the higher end of the quality segment with any further mark up directly impacting on sales volume.

The Fijian Government does provide a significant amount to the code, but there are many other demands on government funding for sport and the current levels directed to Rugby are probably at the upper end.

Rugby in Fiji has done well over the past few years in attracting sponsors and many of these are amongst the leading brand names in the world.


Potential for return

But the potential for a reasonable return on investment for Rugby or for any other sport in the Fiji market is very limited, and any professional marketing manager will always look at a cost benefit analysis.

Certainly Rugby in Fiji can be relied on to generate a vast amount of media attention, and the media is very supportive of the main sponsors.

But no matter how much noise is created and how much awareness is generated for the brands supporting Fiji Rugby, the stark fact remains that the total population is less, significantly less, than a million people.

A great number of those are not the prime purchase decision maker for many of the brands that support Fiji Rugby.

So, for any brand evaluation, the potential for commercial payback from Rugby sponsorship is limited.

Even for the Fiji Rugby fifteens team, who do compete in competitions internationally, the payback is limited as they get very limited exposure in international, media during the events because they are ranked well below all the top tier teams.

The international media will always cover the games that create the widest interest internationally.

The Flying Fifteens international performance against the leading teams is not of great interest outside Fiji so the international media doesn’t give the Fiji games a great deal of air time.

If there is a clash with another game with better performing teams that will get precedence.


Way forward for sponsorships

Joseph Roden’s comments make excellent sense for Fiji Rugby Union as a way forward for sponsorships as there is a clear commercial return for the Sevens Team, particularly at the moment when they are back-to-back Champions and Olympic Gold Medallists.

Every time they appear in a competition they are guaranteed good exposure and the sponsor benefits. Now is the time to lock in the deals while they are still the top team.

But is should also be noted that sponsorships need to be supported with performance and it is important the funds generated from a sponsorship are directed to ensuring the continued performance of the Sevens Team before they are spread to other sectors.

Securing the players through contracts should be a prime use of the sponsorship funds and the contributors need to be assured that every dollar will be invested where it counts, and that is making every effort to ensure the standard of the team is maintained.

The traditionalists in FRU will disagree that the Sevens team is the most important to support, but without their quality performance there will be no funds for other sectors of the game.

Of interest in the discussion of sponsorships is the background to the introduction of one day limited over cricket.


Alternative ideas

Kerry Packer, the owner of the Nine Television Network in Australia at that time, wanted to have cricket as programme content but knew that a five day test match was not good television entertainment.

He proposed to the cricket hierarchy that a modified form of the game be introduced to make cricket more exciting and better for television.

He had all sorts of wild ideas such as coloured uniforms and balls (because they would stand out better on screen) and the game limited to twenty overs a side.

The traditionalists were horrified and immediately refused. Undeterred, Packer went off and set the whole thing up himself, in the process hiring top international players from all over the world, contracting then to his game and paying them well.

The first match was played in Melbourne on January 17, 1979 and at the end of that match the future of one-day cricket was assured.

In order to fit the needs of his television programming Packer decided to run the games as day/night events and to do this he had to build, at his own expense, light towers at each ground with enough power to literally turn night into day.

All the cricketers who were contracted became professional players, and the standard of the playing increased significantly.

The short game was quite different technically to the test cricket and developed its own outstanding players who mainly concentrated on the short game, but there were many who covered both.

And the traditional cricket clubs found that they had to match the contacts offered by Packer or lose their talent to the more profitable code.

Eventually, after a number of years, agreement was reached between Packer and the national cricket associations and the control of the game became unified once again.

I was involved in the marketing of the early one day competition and was able to watch the development of the game from a closer viewpoint than most.

There is no doubt that the breakaway one day cricket gave all cricket a huge lift in interest and took it into the professional era, against the wishes of the traditionalists of the time but to the joy of all who love cricket as a sport.

In Fiji, there is an opportunity for Rugby to make the same leap.

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him:

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