Successful Sydney Sevens event signals new opportunities for rugby union marketing

Sydney Sevens

Big crowds heralded the success of the Sydney Sevens

A week after hosting the first Rugby Sevens tournament in Sydney, the Australian Rugby Union has heralded the success of the event introducing new people to the sport and and highlighted the marketing strategy as a way forward for the sport.

Sydney looked to mimic the success of overseas tournaments such as the Hong Kong Sevens, working closely with Destination NSW to host the event and use it as a springboard for other tournaments including Super Rugby and the local club competitions.

Rob Clarke, ARU chief operating officer and former managing director of Leo Burnett and former CEO of the Brumbies and the Heart, said he was delighted with the outcome of the strategy.

Rob Clarke says Sevens a platform to market to new audiences

Rob Clarke says Sevens is a platform to market to new audiences

“Like any new event you always enter into it with a little bit of trepidation and lacking in clarity as to how it’s going to go, but in every respect and in every metric we were very excited and very, very positive about the start of this tournament and we hope for a long-term future here in Sydney,” said Clarke.

“One of our challenges as a game is to be able to move beyond our traditional heartland and our supporter base. To grow we need to expand into new markets and the Sevens certainly proved that there are target audiences, and particularly younger audiences, who want to be engaged because it is a different profile, its a shorter format.”

The ARU has revealed that 50% of the overall ticket sales came from people who had never bought a ticket to a rugby event before, or those who had attended a rugby event in the past, the code succeeded in attracting  a much younger demographic than traditional go to the sport.

More than one in 10 buyers were aged 18-24, with 27% of tickets sold to people aged 25-34 and 24% aged 35-44.

“It’s not surprising it attracted a younger audience because the social media statistics that came in and around the event with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were all significantly up and that’s where the younger audiences live as we know,” said Clarke.

“I’m quietly confident that to start the rugby year with the Sevens event really helps to mark rugby and the beginning of the season, but equally brings in new eyeballs and new supporters.”

Clarke said that the partnership with Destination NSW was crucial to successfully staging the event and helping to expose rugby to people who traditionally did not have an interest in the sport.

“They have a very wide market that they talk to, both here and overseas and that helped to spread the message.”

Another key to the success of marketing the event was taking advantage of the fact that 16 nations were competing, said Clarke.

“We went out and deliberately engaged with those local communities supporting those nationalities, whether it be through their embassies or high commissions, and so we really did engage those community groups to get them involved.”

Clarke said one of the keys to setting a platform of success for the code moving forward was keeping up the momentum with regular events, starting off with the Sevens.

“We have a full rugby championship and then a grand slam tour at the end of the year so really it’s wall-to-wall top class rugby from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and that’s what we need to do to compete against the other rival codes in Australia,” he said.

Simon Canning



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