World Rugby, the world governing body for the sport of rugby union and rugby sevens, is planning to capitalize on Africa’s lucrative sports industry following a Nielsen report revealing that the sport has a quickly expanding fan base.
World Rugby organizes the Rugby World Cup every four years, the sport’s most recognized and most profitable competition.
The event serves as an opportunity for private companies to showcase their products and services through advertisements and marketing strategies. It also helps build up the economy of its host nations by attracting increased spending among fans and boosting tourism revenue.
The 2023 World Cup will, for instance, bring in R27.3 billion ($2 billion) in direct and indirect economic spin-offs for South Africa, according to auditing firm, Grant Thornton, the world’s sixth largest professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms.
The 2018 edition of the event was held in July in San Francisco, in the United States.
Nielsen Holdings, a global information, data and measurement company with headquarters in the UK, has found that Africa is among the fastest-growing rugby fan-bases with 32.7 million enthusiasts to date.
Overall, the sport has seen its global fan base increase by 24% since 2013 with major global markets showing strong growth.
Nielsen revealed that Asia, North America, South America and African markets for the rugby industry are growing rapidly.
Rugby has nearly 800 million followers globally, while more than 338 million considering themselves fans, with India, China and the USA alone constituting almost 33% of the population, according to the largest-ever market research into fan trends and perceptions conducted by World Rugby.
The research undertaken by Nielsen Sports paints a picture of a vibrant, growing sport that is increasingly broadening its global appeal.
It comes at a time when the Rugby World Cup 2019 trophy tour underway.
Rugby is experiencing strong global participation growth with 9.1 million men, women and children (registered and casual participants) regularly playing the game, with growth driven by emerging rugby markets of large populations.
The research, undertaken across 88 markets, reflects participation trends, with significant increases in rugby interest driven by emerging markets since rugby’s Olympic Games inclusion.
As many as 793 million people follow rugby globally, while 338 million consider themselves as fans – an increase of 24 per cent since 2013
The fan base in emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and USA, has increased by more than 50% since 2013
Asia, North America, South America and Africa have the fastest-growing fan-bases with 112.5 million, 52.8 million, 38.2 million and 32.7 million enthusiasts respectively.
Interest in the Rugby Sevens event has increased by 6% since its Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016
Across key emerging markets in Asia, North America, South America and Africa, 63% of rugby fans became fans after being inspired by shorter forms of the game.
Participants highlight rugby’s values, fun and health benefits as major attractions to playing
The research reflects World Rugby’s strategic plan to ensure that the sport grows by attracting new audiences, whilst remaining relevant to existing fans by providing invaluable qualitative and quantitative data to shape fan-engagement strategies and benchmark performance via growth and perception trends.
“World Rugby welcomes this study, which paints a picture of a sport that continues to attract new and younger fans globally,” World Rugby Chairman, Bill Beaumont said.
“The information will aid our strategic decision-making, assisting World Rugby, our regions and unions in ensuring attractiveness of the game and shaping future fan-engagement programmes,” he added.
Speaking from India during the Rugby World Cup 2019 trophy tour, World Rugby Chief Executive Officer Brett Gosper explined that World Rugby is committed to ensuring a thriving, growing, inclusive game that is accessible to all.
“This research, which demonstrates significant fan-growth, reflects a sport that is effective in attracting a new, younger audience in non-traditional rugby nations, despite huge competition for eyeballs and attention,” he said.