World Rugby has today launched a landmark initiative aimed at revolutionising and generating exposure for the women’s game worldwide and inspiring participation.
The campaign focuses on the concept that when a person chooses to start playing rugby, it is not just the game and their team-mates that change their life but also the values of the sport.
World Rugby wants to communicate to every female across the globe that taking up the sport has the power to make them “Unstoppable”.
Among the other themes of the campaign is that “the passion and discipline that rugby teaches you on the field will help and strengthen you off it” and that “the lines you breakthrough on the pitch will help you overcome obstacles in life”.
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper claims the international governing body’s feeling is that the development of women’s rugby is the single greatest opportunity for the sport to grow over the next decade.
“It does sit very well with rugby’s values and our overall vision of it being a sport for all, and the mission of growing the global rugby family,” he said during a media call.
“So, in that sense, we are very committed to gender balance and I think it’s different in other major sports that women is a huge current growth area but also a potential area for further growth as well – certainly in terms of participation but also in terms of our fan base.
“In terms of participation, we have around nine million participants around the world in rugby, of which 2.7 million – more than a quarter of the total – are female players which is a huge growth and change over recent years.
“In fact, it’s almost a 30 per cent increase just in the last two years in terms of the number of participants and even our mass participation programmes of Get into Rugby are hitting around the 40 per cent participation level.
“In terms of our fan base, we measure this with global research on an annual basis, [those that are] very interested in rugby and interested in rugby is sitting at around 330 million globally currently.
“And recent research shows that’s about 40 per cent women in that group.”
Gosper stated that women’s rugby is already a hugely important aspect of the sport and that World Rugby’s goal is to grow that even further.
“This is a campaign about women in rugby, which means not just women playing rugby, it’s about leadership on and off the field, it’s about ensuring that our competitions are very competitive, and ensuring we have commercial programmes that work well,” he said.
“But initially, this campaign builds off our current global marketing position which is the sport of character.
“It’s pretty obvious that rugby is a contact sport, a physical game.
“What’s important for us is to convey the values of the sport and the unique values of comradery and discipline and solidarity and passion.
“All of these things are summarised by the fact that it’s a sport of character, it’s a sport that builds character that gives and enhances life skills to those participating.”
As part of the campaign, World Rugby has identified 15 female players who it claims are truly “Unstoppable” to feature in the campaign creative.
Additionally, a video has been created centring on one “Unstoppable”, India’s Sweta Shahi, who is said to have overcome real barriers to participation.
The overall strapline is “Try and Stop Us. Start Rugby. Become Unstoppable.”
“‘Try and Stop Us. Start Rugby. Become Unstoppable’ is the call to action and to kick start that people are having engaged conversations about women in rugby,” Katie Sadleir, World Rugby’s general manager for women’s rugby, said.
“We’ve chosen our first 15 global ‘Unstoppables’ representing very much a global look and feel in terms of cultures that are represented, ages – the youngest is 12, the oldest is plus-60.
“They are women in rugby – we’ve got coaches, match officials, players, administrators all with a different story about why they are ‘Unstoppable’.
“So it’s quite a powerful group of women and girls who we’ve chosen also to represent various markets where we are working closely with the unions to actually help with their growth plans.”
In March 2017, World Rugby offered a renewed commitment to its #BeBoldForChange initiative, which aims to further the profile, development, sustainability and success of the game for females.
Under the guidance of the Women’s Advisory Committee, the sport’s governing body announced it would commence a “comprehensive consultation process with players, fans, unions, regional associations, commercial and broadcast partners”.
This was with the view to establishing a clear plan for women’s rugby between 2017 and 2025.
Sadleir claimed the Women in Rugby campaign was “not a huge spend” in isolation and revealed that a grant was received from the International Olympic Committee to help with the development of the images and creative assets.
“It really engages with our member unions to provide for many of them that don’t have significant marketing resources and budgets in-house,” she said.
“One of their asks for us to help is to provide tools and kits that help them develop the game in their union.
“So it’s been packaged in a way where we’re starting off with a global 15 and phase two is about helping them identify their own ‘Unstoppables’ and use that to actually lift the profile of women in rugby in the unions.”
Asked how the campaign’s branding and wording will engage chief marketing officers and marketing directors with the women’s game more than previously, Gosper added: “It’s already building off what is attractive about rugby for any commercial entity, which is it’s very attitude led, it’s very values led, it’s very life skills led and that is a very valuable place for a sport to be, and I think rugby occupies that territory really in many ways better than most sports.
“So there’s already that advantage there and I think [it’s a case of] conveying that attitude across the women’s game, but not just the women’s game but women in rugby which provides an opportunity in all aspects of the game – employment, pastime, passion, all the rest of it.
“I think the Women in Rugby is a very important part of the slogan because it’s not just about playing, it’s about all aspects of the ecosystem of rugby that are there for women to profit from and for brands to get involved with, so it’s quite a broad statement.
“And again, I think the ‘Unstoppables’ element of it is an attitude for women not just in sport but in life in general and I think that’s something that brands like to be able to extrapolate from the sporting stage and talk about what their brand means on a broader basis.
“I think this a great bridge for them to get associated with.
“So I think there’s some very strong messages for commercial partners to exploit around this campaign.”