By Rupert Staines
// Thu 23rd
"I've just woken up, was it a dream?!" said the text message from a friend in Australia as I wobbled down the King's Road back on 22nd November, 2003. I was still out celebrating England's last minute victory in the Rugby World Cup Final and he'd just woken up in Sydney the morning after the night before, texting me as a very happy Englishman!
It's incredible to think that texting was the most popular form of sharing back in 2003. Interestingly, messaging via email or IM is still the most popular form of sharing; however, the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & WhatsApp have enhanced and improved the sharing ecosystem. Back then we rugby fans had to make do with simple phone calls, texts & emails to share the unforgettable news that England were Rugby World Champions. How things have changed in 12 years!
Rugby union is now well ahead of the curve when it comes to investment in technology and helping to harness the connected fans' experience. In 2011 the RFU's Commercial Director, Sophie Goldschmidt, persuaded her bosses to invest a mammoth £76m in making Twickenham the most digitally advanced stadium in Europe by 2015's Rugby World Cup. Superfast WIFI, e-tickets, digital screens, mobile messages, email updates & regular e-commerce engagement. Fortress Twickenham was redesigned to improve the fans' experience and help them become the '16th man' for Team England.
Today, technology has changed the rugby fan experience for the better. Rugby fans still share lots of normal things. The rugby stories, the train journeys, the stadium visits, the match day experience, sponsors' commercial messages, drinks' rounds, the banter, the highs and lows and the camararderie. Technology has taken sharing to another level.
Technology is now front and centre of every rugby fans' experience (on match day or before) and this experience can be shared digitally pretty much everywhere and anywhere in real-time. Whether fans are at home, in the pub or watching the game live at a stadium, the sharing of the rugby experience has gone global, at scale. Millions of connected fans now share millions of videos, articles, pictures, quotes, texts, emails and so much more wherever they are, at whatever time, on whatever device. The sharing of 'rugby stories' is now so very different today to the halcyon text days of 2003!
And rugby fans aren't the only beneficiaries. Brand and commercial partners involved in rugby are benefiting enormously too. RWC2015 will see many of the world's leading brands battle it out to try and reach and influence the millions of connected rugby fans with their communication strategies and high quality content.
The new technology infrastructure will enable the likes of Emirates, Heineken, MasterCard, DHL, Land Rover & Societe Generale to do this like never before and harness the sharing habits of millions for rugby fans. RadiumOne's recent Rugby Fans & Technology Survey highlighted just how important sharing is amongst rugby fans. Fans admitted that the 2015 Rugby World Cup will see them deliver a 27% increase in their online sharing activity, with 34% saying they'll be consuming a lot more rugby content. Given a fifth of rugby fans chat with friends on instant messenger (21%) about a game whilst watching rugby on TV, and 19% like to post comments about it on social media, the opportunity for brands is clear.
Sir Clive Woodward once said, "Get the small things right and the big things happen." Never has a quote been more apt. If brands get the right sharing tools locked down well in advance of RWC2015, it will give them time to properly understand their connected fans and then target their ads to the right people, at the right time, on the right device. This will simply result in better business outcomes.
Personally, I'd recommend R1's po.st widget and URL shortener, as they don't leak or sell data and can unlock an additional #darksocial audience of up to 70%! What's not to like here?!
Let's hope both the England Rugby Team and the brands wanting to associate themselves with RWC2015 do just that. After all, sharing is caring!