Is Rugby Ready To Scrum On The U.S. Sports Stage With Fans, TV, Marketers?
Friday, June 9, 2017 at 09:36AM in NBC Sports, Rugby, Rugby, USA Rugby, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

June 9, 2017: Armed with new deals from adidas and NBC Sports, and with the first Rugby World Cup Sevens championship to be held in the U.S. scheduled for 2018, rugby appears to be primed to move up the ranks among pro and collegitate sports in America.

Rugby already seems to be on the rise in the U.S., at least based on the increase in fan attendance, media interest and marketing activation over the past few years.

According to Bill Beaumont, World Rugby chairman, "The USA is one of the fastest-growing markets for rugby participation and fan growth."

USA Rugby, the governing body for the sport in the nation in the U.S., will put that support to the test with a pair of upcoming games against top-rated international opponents.

As part of the Emirates Airline Summer Series, USA Rugby Men’s Eagles will play Ireland, scheduled for June 10 in Red Bull Arena (home to the MLS New York Red Bulls), with the match to air on NBCSN.

A week later, the Men’s Eagles are scheduled to play another international match, this one against Georgia Rugby Union in Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw (GA) State University on June 17.

The games are being presented by Rugby International Marketing, the commercial arm of USA Rugby, and TLA Worldwide.

The matches will be the last preparatory competition for the U.S. ahead of a Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier series with Canada, scheduled for June 24 and July 1.

Both games have been supported via multi-media marketing, including a national TV spot as well as digital and other activation from LIFT, San Francisco, which has been working with USA Rugby to help grow the sport nationwide.

According to World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper, "We know there are about 40 million rugby fans in the States based on our research and that’s going up."

Adidas recently signed a multi-year deal to be the official kit supplier for USA National Teams and representative teams.

World Rugby and NBC Sports Group in May signed a seven-year alliance that gives NBC Sports exclusive U.S. media rights to the Rugby World Cup and other key rugby events through 2023.

Among the companies also aligned with USA Rugby are AIG, Gatorade, KT Tape, Crabbie’s, Thorne and

The first Rugby World Cup Sevens championship to be held in the U.S. is scheduled for July 20-22, 2018, in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

More than 80,000 people attended a USA Sevens international tournament in March 2016 in Las Vegas, and 61,500 attended a USA vs New Zealand match in November 2014 in Soldier Field, Chicago.

The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, held June 3-4 in Talen Energy Stadium Philadelphia, with 24 teams from across the nation, saw a tournament record of more than 37,500 fans attend throughout the weekend. It aired on NBCSN.

"This exciting and unprecedented deal with one of the world’s most prestigious broadcasters will ensure that more people than ever before in the USA will be able to access the world’s top men’s and women’s 15s and sevens events.,” said Beaumont of the World Rugby-NBC Sports alliance. “NBC will be the destination for rugby in the USA."

The deal piggy-backs on NBCU’s exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics, which in 2016 saw Rugby Sevens make its Olympic debut in Rio. (The sport was last played in the 1924 Summer Olympics when a Rugby Union competition was held),

USA Rugby has more than 115,000 members, including more than 32,000 college rugby members, 1,200 high school teams, 900 college teams, 700 senior club teams and 400 youth teams.

Another sign of the sport's growth: The first Rugby Business Executives Assn. Leadership Conference has been scheduled for the Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier weekend in San Diego, Calif., to be held at Marriott Mission Valley Friday, June 30.
The purpose of the conference: "To connect senior executives having a passion for rugby for networking, sharing knowledge, and the promotion of the sport in key regional markets."

Citing Team, Fan, Sponsor Growth In U.S., NBC All In With Rugby

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