Published on January 20, 2016 by Graham Lehman  

The 2015 Rugby World Cup held in England was by far the best tournament in the sport’s history. With the New Zealand All Blacks being the first nation to claim their third title, the fans of the game were treated to flair, scoring and incredibly physical play. It is undeniable that after this astoundingly successful tournament for World Rugby, that the game of rugby is gaining momentum on the world stage.

Television Reach and Social Media Engagement

The most noticeable signs of rugby’s world growth is the shear technological impact the game had throughout this tournament. An astonishing four billion-television audience viewed the games of this past World Cup in 207 countries. Additionally the games generated over one billion social media impressions, an engagement that made the event the most discussed sporting spectacle of the year through the hash tag #RWC2015 (Rugby: The Time to Watch is Now). These figures show that the sport, which has been historically popular in select countries known as Tier One nations, is having an increasingly far reach into countries with a previously small interest and knowledge of the sport.

A nation that exemplifies this would be Japan, a country before the tournament that showed minimal involvement with the sport. However after one of the biggest upsets in sporting history in their victory over South Africa, the Brave Blossoms as they are known saw a television share of 64% at 25 million people in Japan watching their next group match. These ratings are just under the 2014 Super Bowl at 71% and broke viewership ratings for the World Cup, which shows the growth the sport has seen in nations known as Tier Two.

Increased Global Sponsorship

Further evidence that the sport of rugby is gaining worldwide popularity is the global sponsorship companies took part in during this most recent World Cup. As seen in the data below conducted by PR firm Waggener Edstrom Communications detailing the Brand Agility Index, the top six corporate sponsors of the six-week event are companies with a massive global reach ranging from the United States to Africa and East Asia.

Brand Agility Index
Brand Score
Mastercard 303
DHL 295
Land Rover 289
Heineken 273
Dove 267
Coca Cola 258

The data presented in the figure above details the successful implementation of sponsorship signage and paid promotions in a successful placement (Hobbs). All of these companies, who were incredibly productive in their sponsorship campaigns, have extensive global interest and are now investing in World Rugby where as their previous investments have historically been in international soccer, which has taken a major credibility hit after the recent FIFA scandal. With trust of international soccer plummeting, the success of the 2015 Rugby World Cup could be grounds for an increasing number of global companies to invest in the sport and widen its already blossoming popularity.

Exciting Future

While this most recent World Cup was a success on all fronts, the high of the tournament will soon be ending. With that, international competition in the sport will give way as domestic leagues pick back up in select countries. This would be concerning for the continued growth of the game, however exciting rugby spectacles are in the near future, the most noticeable being the 2016 Olympic Games. These games will feature a style of rugby known as 7’s, which is quicker and more action-packed than the traditional rugby played at the World Cup. This has been especially effective in gaining the attention of younger generations, who enjoy the speed of the game and high scoring affairs. With these games less than a year away, rugby is in the midst of a historic time for the sport, a time where real strides can be made to further the game. Following the massive viewership of this World Cup around the world, increasing number of participants at all levels and the excitement of future international competitions, rugby has an incredibly exciting future which will in turn see continued growth for the sport.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup in England held over the past six weeks produced some of the best rugby the world has ever seen. Magnificent runs, close matches and massive upsets all contributed to a successful tournament, which was a turning point for the sport. With the widest ever reach of the games through television and social media, high level of global corporate sponsorship engagement and the upcoming Olympic Games, rugby is in the midst of its most exciting time as a sport. Times that will see the game continue to grow in world popularity and involvement.

This blog was written by Samford University student Graham Lehman.


Hobbs, Thomas. Marketing Week. “Rugby World Cup 2015: Who Won The Sponsorship Battle?” Retrieved from:

Team Epic. “Rugby: The Time To Watch Is Now.” Retrieved from: