With the Rugby World Cup being staged in England and Wales during September and October, there are opportunities for the trade to boost volumes in key product categories

It might usually seem the poor relation compared with football in this country, but rugby is about to become very big indeed. The Rugby World Cup is arguably the third biggest global sporting event, and it kicks off in England and Wales later this month. So if you haven’t got a plan to drive sales on the back of this, perhaps you should consider it.

Over six weeks, 20 nations will be taking part, including all four home nations and the current holders the New Zealand All Blacks. The spread of nations involved is truly global, with the likes of Canada, South Africa, Argentina and Japan meaning that all six continents have a representative and, while rugby in England is usually concentrated around Twickenham, the tournament sees games staged in Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham as well as in the capital. Cardiff also plays host to a number of key fixtures.

For those who can’t get to the games in person, every match will be shown on terrestrial TV, potentially giving a huge boost for drinks and snacks to be consumed at home.

Research indicates that shoppers are already thinking about the tournament, and where they are planning to watch it, according to HIM’s insight director Katie Littler.

“One in three UK adults are intending to watch the Rugby World Cup, with one in four saying they’re likely to be more ‘involved’ this time due to it being in the UK,” she points out. “Interest will be higher than ever before thanks to England and Wales playing host, so retailers need to get prepared!”

The TV audience is crucial, explains Littler. “Most people (95%) intend to watch the games from home, which opens up plenty of opportunity for convenience retailers, especially with regards to related multi-buy promotions and bigger share-size pack sizes. As many as 72% will be watching in groups, so retailers need to be creating displays encouraging shoppers to stock up in quantity.”

Games to watch

England v Fiji

Friday 18 September, KO: 8pm 

Ireland v Canada

Saturday 19 September, KO: 2.30pm

Wales v Uruguay

Sunday 20 September, KO: 2.30pm

Scotland v Japan

Wednesday 23 September, KO: 2.30pm

England v Wales

Saturday 26 September, KO: 8pm

Scotland v USA

Sunday 27 September, KO: 2.30pm

Ireland v Romania

Sunday 27 September, KO: 4.45pm

Wales v Fiji

Thursday 1 October, KO: 4.45pm

Scotland v South Africa

Saturday 3 October, KO: 4.45pm

England v Australia

Saturday 3 October, KO: 8pm

Ireland v Italy

Sunday 4 October, KO: 4.45pm

Samoa v Scotland

Saturday 10 October, KO: 2.30pm

Australia v Wales

Saturday 10 October, KO: 4.45pm

England v Uruguay

Saturday 10 October, KO: 8pm

Quarter finals

Saturday 17 October, KO: 4pm, 8pm

Sunday 18 October, KO: 1pm, 4pm

Semi finals

Saturday 24 October, KO: 4pm

Sunday 25 October, KO: 4pm

Bronze final

Friday 30 October, KO: 8pm


Saturday 31 October, KO: 4pm

With the audience settled in front of their TVs for the tournament, the opportunity to upsell bigger volumes is obvious. “As many as 59% of shoppers say they will likely to be eating and drinking more than usual while watching the games,” says Littler. “The products shoppers tell us they’ll be consuming more of are (in order): beer, crisps, soft drinks, hot drinks, cider, nuts, pizza, chocolate, wine and popcorn. So it’s advisable to ensure clear visibility and full availability in these categories to avoid lost sales. Promotions are also likely to have significant influence over purchasing decisions, with one in two saying promotions will influence their decision in-store. This is a much higher proportion than usual.”

Displays and promotions are already being planned at Holborn’s, which operates two stores in Redhill and Nutfield, Surrey. Owner Dean Holborn told C-Store: “While it doesn’t have the same following of the big football tournaments, we are expecting an upsurge in sales, particularly in alcohol.

“The kick-off times are afternoons and evenings, and a lot of the games, especially the England games, are on at the weekends, so we’ll be highlighting deals on alcohol. I know some customers who are big rugby fans, but I think there will be a general rise in interest. It’s the biggest sporting event of the year in this country and it’s all on terrestrial TV - I’m looking forward to it personally, and even people I know who are not big rugby fans are making plans about where they are going to watch the games.”

As well as capturing the imagination of the public, the Cup is also being staged at a good time of year for the trade, explains Dean. “The autumn is usually transitional and this fits in after the summer, but before Halloween and Bonfire Night, so it’s really good to have an event to jump onto.

“We have two tables that we usually use for displays of bake-off or other special features, and we’ll be turning one into a World Cup display with a ball and some bunting, as well as some packs of beers. Treasury Wine Estates are putting a unit into the store, which will help to highlight their rugby promotion, and we’ll be doing anything we can to attach some extra sales to it. We might even sell more flowers for those who need to apologise for watching too many games!”

The Treasury Wine Estates activity is typical of the imagination that suppliers are putting into the opportunity the World Cup brings. Although not an official sponsor, the promotion on the company’s Wolf Blass brand ensures it will be uppermost in rugby fans’ minds while the tournament is running.

Limited-edition bottles of Wolf Blass Yellow Label are already in the trade with 15 different labels, each one depicting a different shirt number and position on the rugby field. Each week consumers will be given the chance on Twitter to vote for the best player ever to play in a particular position. England World Cup winner Will Greenwood has also been signed up to add his opinion.

The votes will be tallied up each week and after every announcement two winners will be drawn from the list of fans who voted that week - each winning a mixed case of six of the Wolf Blass Yellow Label limited-edition rugby bottles. In the final week of the campaign Wolf Blass will announce its definitive #WinningLineUp - the greatest team in the history of the game - and the winner of the grand prize: a VIP rugby weekend for four people, including tickets to a 2016 Six Nations game and the chance to mingle with current and ex-players.

Key suppliers Heineken and Coca-Cola are official sponsors of the event, giving them unprecedented levels of access for their promotional activity.

Heineken is searching for 48 fans from across the globe to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity via on-pack activity to attend the official coin toss at each game, as well as creating its own Heineken Rugby Studio; a digital preview/review show that will take place across social media. Hosted by Will Carling, the content will feature Heineken’s Legends line-up of former players, as well as a number of special guests. Fans are able to be a part of the action via the hash tag #ItsYourCall.

Shoppers can sharpen their own rugby skills via Coca-Cola’s key promotion, which is giving away one million Gilbert rugby balls through the ‘Win A Ball’ on-pack promotion. The promotion will feature across all four Coca-Cola variants on 1.25ltr, 1.75ltr, 4 x 1.5ltr, and 6 and 8 x 330ml cans, with consumers having to enter a 10-digit code at www.winaball.co.uk to find out instantly if they are a winner.

As well as support for the Coca-Cola brand, Glaceau Smartwater also has the status of official water supplier to the Rugby World Cup, and will mark the partnership with the #RugbyDistilled campaign.

The tournament will also see the production of special-edition 600ml and 850ml bottles, with a distinctive Rugby World Cup 2015 branding.

#RugbyDistilled will be supported by POS and display merchandise, as well as outdoor advertising at key London transport hubs, and on approaches to Rugby World Cup 2015 stadia.

Symbol groups are also getting in on the act, with Londis producing a specially-themed leaflet to attract shoppers to stores during the tournament. Londis brand director John Pattison says: “We’ve launched a dedicated package that includes national door drop leafleting, in-store POS, additional posters for the biggest games and a retailer guide with top tips to maximise sales.”

Londis retailer Jatinder Sahota from Sheppey, Kent, is going to get behind the event. He said: “This is going to be a big opportunity for me to increase sales over a short period. I’m using as much of the POS material in my store as I can, because my customers need to know that they can get everything they need right here.”


Big name backing puts rugby in the spotlight

Heineken has adopted some legends of rugby to front its World Cup activity, and C-Store got the opportunity to talk to them about the event.

New Zealand winger Jonah Lomu terrorised England during the 1995 World Cup, and is excited about the 2015 edition taking place in the UK.

“With the tournament taking place in the UK where rugby originated - it’s like being at rugby HQ,” he says. “All the players will want to put their best foot forward. Rugby has definitely grown in the past 20 years; it’s fantastic to see.”

Former Welsh international turned TV pundit Scott Quinnell says the World Cup is going to be “huge”.

“It’s already huge in the rugby community, but it will be elsewhere as well. People will be watching it down the pub, at home, in the clubs, everywhere. Four years ago the cup was in New Zealand so the kick-off times were early morning in the UK, so with better kick-off times this can be the best World Cup ever.

“It’s not just about Twickenham; there are games in Cardiff, the north of England, all over the country. And the smaller nations will play with great pride so local people will identify with them wherever they play.”

Matt Dawson was England’s scrum half when they lifted the trophy in 2003, and he says he is still reminded about that day “all the time” by people he meets.

“There is an enormous breadth of rugby-playing nations these days, and the World Cup is quite rightly seen as challenging to be the third biggest global sporting event, after the Olympics and the Football World Cup. It’s big and it’s getting bigger.

“There has never been as big an opportunity as there is now,” he continues. “Rugby lends itself to the social, community side of sport - when you go to a game all the supporters are mixed in together. Heineken has done a great job with sponsorship; the opportunity to join the players in the tunnel before the match is incredible.”