Rugby Union is currently at an interesting crossroads in the future of the sport. Some would love nothing more than to preserve the traditions of the sport, keeping the amateur era days well and truly alive, whilst others have the mindset that the sport needs to grow by reaching more people and bringing in more money to a sport that desperately needs it.
The past year has seen the best and the worst of the current game on display. In scenes not seen of this magnitude before, four major English clubs have folded due to financial issues, with others declaring major losses in their annual reports.
On the other end of the spectrum, World Rugby’s flagship tournament, the World Cup, was a huge success with viewing figures and online reach hitting major records thanks to the likes of RugbyPass, leading the way in consumer engagement and online coverage.
The Six Nations is the next big test for the sport, with many millions expected to tune in to support their chosen countries. A key lesson in marketing is to ensure that your audience can engage with the product, and that’s exactly what all six unions have decided to do. According to the telegraph, players will now have their names on the back of their shirts in an attempt to create player recognition and build a fan base of individual players as well as the team.
This will follow on from the tactic that has worked in Association Football for years, and an effort that has been slowly introduced in rugby union over the past few seasons.
Mark Smith, Media Manager at Newcastle Falcons suggested that this should only be the start, stating: “Names on shirts is a start, if 20 years too late, but I’d go the whole hog and just have squad numbers in rugby. Opens up way more marketing opportunities (Radwan14, Itoje32 etc), and the reality these days is the notion of ‘position’ is fairly obsolete.”
One fan has joked: “With this extra cost per letter in ones name, this now gives a financial incentive to select Aki over Henshaw or Ringrose”.