Rugby union’s World Cup takes place through September and October with the added bonus for the nation’s retailers of being co-hosted by England and Wales. Games will be played in 13 towns and cities with favourable live TV times, providing a double whammy of traffic lucky ticket holders on their way to and from games and armchair fans stocking for a big night, or in many cases, day in.
There’s a also a potential bonanza for individual brands, most notably Heineken and Coca-Cola who are headline sponsors.
Limited-edition Heineken packaging will appear from this month in 33cl and 65cl bottle formats and 33cl and 50cl cans. There’ll be gift giveaways on multipacks and a competition for consumers to win match tickets or a VIP stadium tour.
Craig Clarkson, off-trade category and trade marketing director, said: "The activity surrounding the tournament will give retailers the opportunity to increase sales while positioning Heineken at the heart of premium, at-home social occasions."
But there’s also the promise of a halo effect for other brands, both big and small. Some, such as Guinness and Dove Men, have strong rugby links. Others among them Walkers, Yorkshire Tea, Mug Shots soups and Wolf Blass wines have partnership ties with host stadia.
Simon Harrison, wholesale sales director at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), says the company is expecting an uplift in fortunes in much the same way as last year’s football World Cup, which it also backed.
"We’ll be announcing some special promotions and activities later in the year to help retailers increase sales of the Coca-Cola portfolio before and during the tournament," he adds.
"There is no shortage of opportunities for retailers to capitalise on soft drink sales, as people increasingly watch televised sport at home. It provides retailers with a range of sales opportunities as people enjoy watching matches with friends or family, and often incorporate food or a barbecue into the occasion."
Martin Wood, strategic insight director for retail at market analyst IRI, says previous football tournaments hold clues to the sorts of categories that can expect to benefit most.
"It’s a different shaped ball and different demographics of consumer but it will certainly be a big thing," Wood says. "We see big uplifts in certain key categories around big tournaments and the obvious one is beers, wines and spirits. But we can also expect increases for snacks and confectionery, and especially sharing bags."
Wood also says there are distinct sales patterns through a tournament. "The biggest uplift usually comes in the first week with people stocking up on cases of beer and it will be no different with the rugby. With the football it normally drops off once England are knocked out, but with the rugby it could be more sustained throughout the tournament as the home countries are more likely to be involved in the final stages."
Wood says stores should focus on sponsor brands. "With Coca-Cola a top-line sponsor in soft drinks there will be a conscious need to promote to maximise the benefit from the sponsorship."
Harrison at CCE offers advice on how to achieve that. "Creating displays or designated spaces in-store, themed around the event, is a great way for retailers to make the most of the occasion, giving consumers a go-to area to choose their refreshments, as well as helping to drive impulse buys.
In alcohol, bottled ale could benefit from a fit with the demographic profile of typical rugby fans, while cider has regional strength in the rugby stronghold of south west England, says Wood.
"There could be a big regional impact for ale brands like Brains in Wales," he adds.
The brewer has partner status with the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which hosts eight matches, and is preparing a special rugby brew called Number 8, though this will not be available in the off-trade. But the brewer still wants to see its retail customers do well from the tournament.
Senior brand marketing manager, Mel Mugatroyd, says: "In the off-trade, the Rugby World Cup will bring an opportunity for people to enjoy the tournament at home with family and friends. As a consequence, larger packs become more appropriate to share for this occasion.
"In terms of ensuring a successful trading period during this event, availability and replenishment of product on- and off-shelf will be key to maximising sales and we have Brains brand ambassadors who go around key retailers ensuring that shelves are fully stocked with our product and, where possible, free-standing display units are placed in key locations. Cold beer could also be an important factor for impulse purchases."
Westons Cider has a partnership deal with Gloucester RFC but will have to observe a two-mile marketing exclusion zone around the club’s ground to avoid conflict with the rights of Heineken, whose brands include Strongbow and Bulmers ciders.
But Sally McKinnon, senior brand manager for Westons’ Stowford Press cider, still sees the World Cup as an important opportunity for retailers.
"There are about nine million rugby fans in the UK and only two million tickets for games, so a lot of people will be watching it at Fan Zones around the country or at home.
"The Fan Zones will have bars, but the reality is that a lot of people will stop at an off-licence or convenience store on the way to buy something to enjoy while they’re watching the games.
"There’s a really big opportunity to engage with consumers with some relevant messages, especially for retailers within the core rugby regions."
Georgina Thomas, category director at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, says the tournament is expected to raise £1bn of direct economic imapct bringing an "enormous sales opportunity for retailers", especially sport-related categories like functional drinks.
She adds: "To increase sales, retailers should stock NPD alongside the core range to ensure consumers have choice." Thomas adds: "Creating cross-category themed fixtures will help to unlock incremental sales, such as placing nutritional bars with sports drinks."
Coming to a stadium near you
Birmingham, Villa Park (two matches) September 26: South Africa v Samoa September 27: Australia v Uruguay
Brighton, American Express Community Stadium (two matches)September 19: South Africa v JapanSeptember 20: Samoa v USA
Cardiff, Millennium Stadium (eight matches)September 19: Ireland v CanadaSeptember 20: Wales v UruguaySeptember 23: Australia v FijiOctober 1: Wales v FijiOctober 2: New Zealand v GeorgiaOctober 11: France v IrelandOctober 17 and 18: Quarter-finals
Exeter, Sandy Park (three matches)September 29: Tonga v NamibiaOctober 7: Namibia v GeorgiaOctober 11: Italy v Romania
Gloucester, Kingsholm Stadium (four matches) September 19: Tonga v GeorgiaSeptember 23: Scotland v JapanSeptember 25: Argentina v GeorgiaOctober 11: USA v Japan
Leeds, Elland Road (two matches)September 26: Italy v CanadaSeptember 27: Scotland v USA
Leicester, King Power Stadium (three matches) October 4: Argentina v TongaOctober 6: Canada v RomaniaOctober 11: Argentina v Namibia
London, Olympic Stadium (five matches)September 23: France v RomaniaSeptember 24: New Zealand v NamibiaOctober 4: Ireland v ItalyOctober 7: South Africa v USAOctober 30: Bronze medal match
London, Wembley Stadium (two matches)September 20: New Zealand v ArgentinaSeptember 27: Ireland v Romania
Manchester, Etihad Stadium (one match)October 10: England v Uruguay
Milton Keynes, Stadium MK (three matches)October 1: France v CanadaOctober 3: Samoa v JapanOctober 6: Fiji v Uruguay
Newcastle, St James’ Park (three matches)October 3: South Africa v ScotlandOctober 9: New Zealand v TongaOctober 10: Samoa v Scotland
Twickenham, Twickenham Stadium (10 matches)September 18: England v FijiSeptember 19: France v ItalySeptember 26: England v WalesOctober 3: England v AustraliaOctober 10: Australia v WalesOctober 17 and 18: Quarter-finalsOctober 24 and 25: Semi-finalsOctober 31: Final
Six key dates
Wherever you’re trading, these are the matches guaranteed to bring a burst of extra business from customers planning a big rugby night in. All matches are live and exclusive on ITV and ITV4.
Friday, September 18England v Fiji, Twickenham, KO 8pmA prime-time TV slot for the opening game as co-hosts England take on the unfancied Fijians in front of a capacity 82,000 at their home ground in south west London. A big win could get the English bid for the cup rolling and give momentum to rugby-related retailer sales in the weeks to come.
Sunday, September 20Wales v Uruguay, Cardiff, KO 2.30pmCo-hosts Wales should have no trouble over the Uruguayans in their first game, which is book-ended by Samoa versus the USA and the first match of red-hot tournament favourites New Zealand, who face a stiffer test against Argentina. That match brings to the close a busy first weekend which also sees Ireland, France and South Africa in action in four Saturday games.
Saturday, September 26England v Wales, Twickenham, KO 8pmThe sides last met in the curtain-raiser to the Six Nations, with England’s 21-16 victory ultimately denying Wales the Grand Slam after their four subsequent victories.
Saturday, October 3South Africa v Scotland, Newcastle, KO 4.45pmThe Scots’ main challengers for the second quarter-final place in Pool B will be Samoa, but it’s the game against the Springboks the group favourites that will be the biggest box office draw for the nation’s rugby fans. England and Australia slug it out in the second leg of the day’s big double bill at 8pm.
Sunday, October 11France v Ireland, Cardiff, KO 4.45pmThese two should both qualify but it’s a measure of the recent ascendancy of Ireland and under-performance of France that the Irish will expect to win here and top the group. Convenience retailers should stock up on Guinness.
Saturday, October 31The Final, Twickenham, KO 4pmIt’s a promotional double whammy for retailers as the tournament climax coincides with Halloween. The participants will emerge from the quarter-finals over the weekend of October 17 and 18 and the semi-finals on October 23 and 25.
Retailers are looking forward to the Rugby World Cup, both from the point of view of the chance to sell a bit more product and for the sport itself.
There’s no bigger rugby part of the UK than Wales and Sian Jones, co-owner at Brian Llewelyn a’i Ferched in Crymych, Pembrokshire, says: "We’re a rural site so the World Cup may not be as big for us as it would be for shops in the city, but I expect we will see some increase, particularly in alcohol sales."
Sian expects the fortunes of the Welsh side in the tournament to provide a barometer for sales.
"If the team does well, the whole country gets into it and that will be good for alcohol sales, but if they do badly it won’t be so good. But as long as Wales win, I won’t be too bothered about the sales."