Michael White, our Senior Account Manager, shares an insight into life on the Lions tour
For any rugby player, a British & Irish Lions tour is the pinnacle of the game. Either pulling on the famous red jersey or lining up against the men wearing them.
The same is true for many brands who partner with the iconic touring rugby side. Other than a Rugby World Cup, no other rugby property holds as much allure or prestige for sponsors. The commercial attraction aside, there is also something truly special about the Lions.
The Lions as a concept and entity are a relic of the sports DNA and heritage in touring faraway countries to take on some of the best rugby sides on the planet. This resonates with rugby fans as it calls to the fore that aspect of rugby that sets it apart from other sports, and as many marketers will tell you, if a brand can tap into the fans emotions they are onto a winner.
To suggest the Lions is stuck in the past is unfair though. In its current form, the British & Irish Lions is a commercial behemoth, supported by some of the world’s most recognisable brands, and for good reason. For any brand looking to reach a feverishly engaged audience, the Lions offers a wealth of possibilities.
During this tour the rugby community will stand still and welcome all manner of Lions related content, news and to a degree partner activation. It is not just the rugby fans that will come to the party though. When the series reaches the showpiece Test matches, the big-eventers engage and in doing so swell the audience of people engaging with the Lions.
The volume of eye balls on the Lions means that for any brand associated with the team or tour have the ability to reach an audience eager to be a part of rugby history.
One such brand is our client Land Rover, a Principal Partner of the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. With a heritage in supporting rugby from the grassroots level all the way to the elite; support stretching back nearly twenty years, Land Rover can credibly claim they get rugby.
This will be Land Rover’s seventh Lions tour and is a brand woven into the very fabric of the sport. The Lions as a property has had to grow and adapt with the changing landscape of the sport and Land Rover has been there to support the Lions growth and help deliver some of the most memorable rugby feats.
For the tour to New Zealand, Land Rover will be there again to offer logistical support for the team, in the shape of a vast fleet of vehicles that will cover the length and breadth of the country, eating up the miles in cars that were born to take on New Zealand; with any luck the players in red will follow suit.
For a brand that gets rugby, it is the relationship it has with fans and the rugby community that is just as important and will form a large part of how Land Rover activates around its Lions partnership. For any rugby fan, to be involved in a Lions tour is something of a sacred pilgrimage but the view from the stands, in the bars outside the stadium or in the arm chair back at home can only tell you so much. Land Rover for this tour is making a commitment to take Lions supporters one step further and take them inside the Lions inner circle.
Rugby fans already trust Land Rover to deliver credible opinion and content thanks to its pedigree in the sport. When combined with the access afforded through its globally recognised brand ambassadors and rare access as a Principal Partner of the Lions, Land Rover will be producing a series of video episodes that take people inside the Lions tour. Talking to players after being selected for the side, catching up with them while on tour, getting under the skin of the challenge facing the Lions and tracking the key moments that define the tour will form a part of what Land Rover will deliver to a captive audience, eager to go beneath the surface of the tour.
For anyone in the sports marketing and sponsorship industry reading this, a to-do list will start forming; camera crew and suppliers, permits to film overseas, ambassador briefs, editing and approvals deadlines, social media strategy, market engagement and distribution lists.
Land Rover’s video content series will form one portion of the brands global activation that includes everything from guest programmes, major stadium branding, vehicle logistics, real time social activity, PR events, ambassador management and general partnership rights management.
As a CSM employee on tour with Land Rover, to have a specialty is a strength, but one of the true challenges and growth opportunities of being on tour comes from being able to adapt to the daily needs to deliver any aspect of work, while factoring in the unique nature of doing so overseas.
It’s been a fascinating tour so far which is now reaching its brutal but fabulous conclusion. On both a personal and professional level, I am still living in hope of a historic turnaround in the Test Match series for the Lions team. However, regardless of the end result on the pitch, its been another memorable tour for players, sponsors and fans alike. Long may it continue.