We have been discussing on this site some problems and solutions around the marketing of rugby in South Africa. Today I want to introduce you to what is one of the biggest and most successful clubs in Europe- on the pitch and in the boardroom.
Thomond Park – the stadium that hosts CJ Stander’s new club, is situated in the Irish town of Limerick with a population of just under a 100 000 people. For those into literature and music. Limerick is the setting for Frank McCourts novel “Angela’s Ashes” and also the birth town of all the band members of “The Cranberries”.
It is situated just over 200km from Dublin and thus fairly isolated from the rest of Europe. It is understood that Munster Rugby managed to lure top executives from Pepsi to run the brand in the early days of its formation and to this day have a tremendous presence in European and world rugby that often makes one forget that this is basically just a small town team from the middle of nowhere, who as a result of clever marketing managed to lure a few big name players – most notably Christian Cullen and Doug Howlet to the ranks.
In 2009 Munster played a Heineken Cup semi final against Leinster in Dublin and attracted the biggest crowd in rugby union history for a club game of 82 000 people. The record has since been broken by Saracens and their game against Harlequins in 2012, but there is no denying that Munster as a brand boxes way above its weight. They are akin to a team based in Nelspruit who suddenly become a huge worldwide brand and dominates Super Rugby with many big name stars attracted to play there.
Again I ask, do our unions take for granted the support they get as a traditional sport and therefore is not as active in promoting their products as they would have been had they been isolated and a minority sport in their own country? What can our other unions learn from Western Province, who still put bums on seats – or the Sharks – who still generate great revenue from clever merchandise strategies? And what can we all learn from Munster, who despite being from nowhere in a country where rugby is a distant fourth in support is still a heavily respected rugby team and brand?
Have a look at this. I look forward to your comments.