Global Fan Interest in Rugby World Cup Grows for the First Time since 2007

By Michael Constanti

Massive Engagement Increases from Japan (86%), France (43%), South Africa (42%)

Digital Media played a pivotal role for the rapid increase of fan engagement during the Rugby World Cup, as the sport reached a whole new level.

The Japan 2019 tournament finished with a gigantic 1.7 billion digital video views, more than four times as many as the last World Cup.

Despite initial fears over early broadcast times in the Northern hemisphere and criticism of the tournament being held in Japan, online search statistics gathered during the Rugby World Cup 2019 show that global fan interest in the ninth edition of the competition grew dramatically for the first time in over twelve years.

According to figures analysed by AccuraCast, the UK’s leading sports digital marketing agency, worldwide interest in this year’s event rocketed by 33% to buck the downward trend of the past three tournaments where search levels had steadily declined 2.67% year on year.

Global searches for ‘Rugby World Cup’ declined by 5% from 2007 to 2011 when the event was held in New Zealand and again by a further 7% from 2011 to 2015 when England hosted the tournament. However, worldwide interest in Japan 2019 shot up by 33% during 2015 to the 2019 event finale.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, by far and away the greatest upsurge in interest came from Japan themselves (86%), the first Asian country to host the competition. This was also boosted as the Japan team courageously played their way into the last eight. The second biggest spike was from fellow quarter-finalists France (43%), followed by the eventual winners South Africa (42%) who ended England’s title hopes with a convincing 32-12 victory in the final.

Of the other major nations competing Wales (31%) led the way followed by Ireland (24%), Australia (23%), New Zealand (22%), England (19%) and Scotland (19%).

Farhad Divecha, managing director of AccuraCast whose clients include UEFA, UFC, Lord’s Cricket Ground, ATP Tour and Tottenham Hotspur, commented;

“Rugby World Cup interest has increased significantly throughout the first few weeks of the tournament. Whilst it’s great to see new interest from countries who aren’t historically big in rugby, it’s important to understand that the surge in digital engagement largely stems from renewed interest within countries who have typically followed the sport. England’s fantastic performance along with the worldwide increase in engagement presents some strong future opportunities right now for brands in the rugby marketplace. Furthermore, to anticipate the interest to rise again in the months surrounding the France 2023 tournament would be a justified prediction.”

On a wider basis, this year’s Rugby World Cup was a record-breaking one from a digital perspective. World Rugby, the world governing body for the sport of rugby union and organisers of the World Cup outlined a plan to reach new audiences on social media, primarily through TikTok which ended the tournament with over 185,000 followers. The #RugbyFever hashtag challenge, also initiated by World Rugby was used over 25 million times in the first seven days. 

Digital media was top of the list for most nations and played a crucial role for staying in touch with their fans from all around the world. All competing nations, as well as the Rugby World Cup itself did a great job developing unique ideas to engage new fans across the globe. 

Digital media will continue to influence the never-ending globalisation of rugby, following the great impact it had on the World Cup.

The data in this article was provided by AccuraCast and Thorburn PR

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