The Next Big Evolution In Rugby World Cup Sponsorship

Japanese brands have history with the Rugby World Cup. Attracted by a big Japanese TV deal, in 1987 they accounted for almost all of the handful of sponsors of the first tournament. I suspect we will see something similar when we get to RWC 2019. Except there will be more Japanese sponsors - a lot more.Well before Japan's electrifying performances in the current RWC, Japan 2019 was always going to be a safe sponsorship bet for World Rugby.First, there's the size and strength of the Japanese economy - the world's third largest, much bigger than any of the Tier 1 rugby countries. Next, as I wrote at the time, back in 2013 when Tokyo won the right to stage the 2020 Olympics it had the unintended consequence of making Rugby World Cup sponsorship more strategically attractive, especially to Olympic sponsors and to their rivals. Then there's the way that Corporate Japan has got behind Tokyo 2020. Tokyo was clearly a big factor in Panasonic and Toyota agreeing huge new global sponsorships with the IOC. And Tokyo is on course to achieve the most successful domestic sponsorship sales programme in Olympic history.And all this was before Japan's three breakthrough RWC 2015 wins, which have created unquestionably the marketing factoid of this Rugby World Cup. The total cumulative TV audience in Japan for the whole of RWC 2011 was just under 25 million. Whereas the live TV audience in Japan just for the Japan v Samoa RWC 2015 match was 25 million.Zilch to 25 million. Zilch to 20 per cent of the Japanese population. Zilch to a world record national viewing audience for rugby.I think that's what they call growth.

No surprise then that Brett Gosper, World Rugby's CEO, said last week that for RWC 2019 World Rugby "will make some adjustments to allow more local brands to take part [as sponsors]...ones that sit well with our global partners". Whether this means an increase in some or all of the four current tiers of RWC sponsorship remains to be seen. But I suspect the question is not how many Japanese brands will be sponsors of Japan 2019, but whether there'll be any space left for anyone else.