Full Credit To The Rugby World Cup And Social Media Is The Winner On The Day

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Social Media / 6 comments
Spot The Ball RWC2011

In less than six hours the might New Zealand All Blacks rugby team will step on the field at Eden Park to play the French in the finals of the Rugby World Cup. I am just a little bit excited, as is the rest of the population of New Zealand.

Just to give you some context, when people asked me what brought me home to New Zealand after 5.5 years away my answer is, in this order:

  1. To see my family and friends
  2. The attend the Rugby World Cup 2011
  3. To celebrate my sister’s wedding

For you non-rugby fans here’s some context. New Zealanders really do live and breathe this sport. We have the best team in the world and have done for over a century. I’m not being bias, it’s the truth. Yet the last time we won the Rugby World Cup was in 1987 (the very first time it was held in Australia and New Zealand).

For the last 24 years we have longed to hold the Webb Ellis Cup in our hands once again, not only our team, but the whole nation. Yes this is waaaaaayyyy bigger than Superbowl.

One of the largest sporting events in the World, New Zealand has played host to 20 competing nations and around 85,000 international rugby fans for Rugby World Cup 2011. Plus millions watching from afar on their TV sets, in pubs, clubs and other live venues like the 65,000 fans Welsh who packed out the Cardiff stadium a week ago to watch the semi final live on the big screen.

We promised a ‘stadium of four million’ (i.e almost our entire population) and we have delivered in every way. I’ve been to three of the games live now, including the opening ceremonies which were astounding and worthy of an Olympic event. I’ve watched over 70% of the games on TV for the last 6 weeks.

Making The Rugby World Cup Social

I’n not talking about people getting pissed in a pub discussing whether the ball was forward or not. I’m talking social media bringing the Rugby World Cup to the world online.

Clare Wolfensohn is the Manager of Online and Communications Projects at Rugby New Zealand 2011. That’s one heck of a job to have and as we close in the on the final of the Rugby World Cup that happens today in Auckland. I thought it would be great to share the results of their social media campaign.

What’s so impressive about this World Cup, aside from the fact that the New Zealand All Black’s are in the final and will beat the French (I was there in Cardiff 2007 when they lost to them and want revenge), is that they have established the entire Social Media Platform for the RWC host nations going forward.

RWC2011 Facebook status update on finals day

I was lucky enough to attend their event for social media influencers before the RWC2011 even began, where Clare and the team presented exactly what they’d done to ensure that they were maximizing the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to drive huge engagement from fans all around the world.

As you can imagine at the last World Cup four years ago many of these platforms like Facebook and Twitter were still in their infancy and were not really predominant for showcasing world sporting events.

The Social Media Rugby Campaign

The social media campaign actually started back in October 2009 when they set up the main social media accounts and started the build up for the event (planning for the current RWC started right after the last one in 2007). For all of you who expect instant results in the online world take note that good things take time and effort.

Here is how they built out their social media campaign (thanks to Clare who was happy for me to share this information) and my personal investigation on where they are at now it’s the final day of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

Phase 1: Building community

Phase 2: Engagement

Phase 3: Ticket sales

Phase 4: Tournament time

Phase 5: Legacy

Anyone searching on Rugby World Cup 2011 would find these main social media channels:

rugby world cup social media channels

Key Social Media Lessons Learned

The RWC2011 clearly put a lot of planning time into their entire marketing campaign and the social media campaign was an integral part of it. They have some valuables lessons to share so listen up social media advocates:

Build brand consistency

It was imperative to have the same branding, messaging and integration across each of the platforms so that when visitors landed on their Twitter account page or their Facebook page they would instantly know it was the official RWC2011.

Brand consistency for Rugby World Cup

Each time they ran a specific promotion such as running a new Facebook application to drive engagement they would see large spikes in the number of new fans, up to 8,000 at a time in the space of a few days, but also general buzz across Twitter, their blog etc.

At the time of the presentation they had 1,153,040 Facebook fans, today they have 1,449,439. Comments on posts ranged between 30-300. Today’s post garnered close to 1500 comments when I checked and just under 9,000 likes!

Understand your audience

They used Facebook insights to better understand their audience which was predominantly young, males who spoke English, although it also highlighted the large number of French and Spanish speakers. From this they learned to increase the number of posts and tweets in other languages to ensure they were including this important demographic.

RWC2011 YouTube demographics

YouTube analytics showed them their main YouTube channel viewers were from New Zealand followed by South Africa, and they were in the older demographic of 35-54, a different audience to Facebook. From this they could cater to their videos to better suit their audience and customize the video content they put out.

They currently have over 7,000 subscribers and a total of 4,440,679 views on their daily videos that each garner around an average of 5,000 views.

Create engaging content

What I think RWC2011 did fantastically well was using a whole range of media to keep fans engaged. Videos, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, posts, news items, fun games and competitions.

They also have used the hashtag #RWC2011 very effectively and I know I’ve had several great conversations with fans from all over the world. Each day I’ve been scanning the stream and sharing opinions on games, players, refs and more, even before the tournament started. There have been some brilliant tweets too like these ones:

RWC2011 funny tweets RWC2011 funny tweets
RWC2011 funny tweet 3

At the time of the presentation they had over 36,000 followers, today, just over 8 weeks later they have 113,350, and here’s an example of how they’re using Twitter to update fans and present great content.

Combined mentions on Twitter for #RWC2011, Teams and @rugbyworldcup now exceed 3.6million since September 1st 2011 (thanks to @justinflitter for that fact).

Top cities people were tweeting from before the tournament were 6% Auckland, 2% Wellington NZ, 2% Dublin, Ireland, 1% Cape Town, ZA. I’d say now it’s a much more international audience given the Australians, Welsh, Irish and English I’ve been tweeting with.

RWC2011 Tweets on finals day
RWC2011 Tweets on finals day

Customer Service = Dialogue

For the RWC2011 they used these social media tools to answer questions from tourist, fans and purchasers of the millions of tickets to the matches. Basically every question that was fired their way was monitored and answered where possible using social media in real-time. This worked particularly well on their discussion board on their Facebook page for successful ticket applications and queries around them.

By providing a fast turnaround time they received a lot of positive press from fans who were impressed with the service and answers they got.

RWC2011 Flickr Roadshow

Another way was to build up goodwill through a dialogue using Flickr for the RWC2011 Roadshow when the Webb Ellis Cup (one of them) toured the country and fans got to follow it’s progress and snap photos and comment and share them.

I missed out as it happened in the lead up to September and during that time they had 22,000 visitors to their Flickr page, amassed 12,000 photos which were viewed 40,000 times. You can bet that figure is four times as much now.

Integrate all platforms

By securing these social media accounts now and for the future the Rugby World Cup is in good hands with all that brand equity, good will and massive online presence.

The key to this was integration across their website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr and with a healthy dose of competitions and fun thrown in. You can see the results of their campaigns across the platforms here:

RWC2011 content engagement strategy

Examples include The World’s Biggest Scrum game, Fan Personality Test, Spot the Ball and the Leaderboard for ticket buyers.

Spot The Ball RWC2011

Crisis 2.0: Social Media Critical

Of course in the lead up to the tournament, and during it, the RWC2011 and the International Rugby Board (IRB) have had a huge amount of press attention cast upon them. As with any major sporting event, despite all the glowing reports, there will always be critics. During the tournament the main criteria for RWC2011 have been the following:

  • Social media part of editorial news service
  • Tailored publication via Facebook
  • Daily video streamed via YouTube
  • Live updates via Twitter
  • Photo galleries on Flickr
  • Mobile location and check-ins

In terms of crisis management here is what they did:

  • Monitored consumer generated media, not just traditional media
  • Responded to every query on twitter and FB
  • Communicated direct to customer, not via media: your story, your words, your message
  • Kept customers updated at every step
  • Engaged on Social media –16 hours per day, real-time

They knew how important it was to manage social media real-time during any potential crisis, especially as the benchmark and face of all future Rugby World Cup tournaments to:

  • Clears misconceptions
  • Prevent incorrect information becoming viral
  • Show you care
Sisters at the Opening Ceremony and Game 9 Sept 2011
Sisson Sisters at the Opening Ceremony and Game 9 Sept 2011

From my perspective I think they’ve done a fantastic job at fully engaging across the right social media platforms and bringing the conversation to the fans, in real time, and in an open and engaging way. They’ve not shied away from any situations – both positive and negative, and have remained responsive and accessible.

Across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, their Blog and Flickr they’ve asked and answered questions, stimulated debate, shared appropriate links and stories, engaged with fans from around the world and provided one of the best social media campaigns I’ve witness from a large sporting event with an international audience.

Along the way I’m sure they’ve helped spread the word about the fantastic game of rugby and brought a new breed of fans, not only to the game, but to New Zealand tourists.

So how do you think RWC2011 have done in creating a winning social media presence?

PS the title of this post is a tongue in cheek response to the typical phrase used in speeches by players, coaches and commentators: ” Full credit to the guys, they played hard. Full credit to the opposition, they put up a good fight It’s a game of two halves, and rugby is the winner on the day”.