was he lured only for the euro - or are other factors involved?
was he lured only for the euro – or are other factors involved?

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.


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  1. We move from Ermelo to Cape Town when I was in standard eight. Always being a WP supporter it was actually strange to see what made people go to Newlands.

    Me thinking was the passion of all youngsters to one day play for the union and the old chaps it was a family gathering.

    As a youngster we would play your school rugby, jumped on the train and get to Newlands in time for some Varsity games and the main clash with WP playing in the Currie Cup.

    When you at Newlands in those days, it was more a family affair than just a bunch of people watching a game.

    For me passion overrules everything, the problem today is that we have so much rugby and the access to TV on almost all games around the world prevent unions to get full stadiums if your team is not winning.

    Western Cape is an area that is driving distance to Newlands and most people in Western Cape support the men. I think it is much more difficult for teams like the Bulls, Lions and more so the Cheetahs to get people on seats due to the small area they cover in their immediate surroundings.

    In a sense stadiums like Newlands and PE have it all. No reason I can see why the Sharks cannot have full stadiums each weekend. As I understand it they have the best after party in the country and people at the stadium except other teams supporters in their gathering afterwards.

    Most teams have the facility at the stadiums to attract people with more than just the game and should look at making this a family day when they come to the stadiums. Why are unions only doing this when Boks are playing.

  2. Another thing that bugs me:

    If you have to pay say R50-00 per ticket for a CC game and only get 10 000 in, why don’t you drop your prices to R20-00 and get 30 to 40000 people in the stadium?

    You do not have to be clever to work out that by dropping the price on tickets will get more people in the stadium and you would most of the times get more money out of it by leaving the price so high.

  3. Jacques I see Leinster offers their first 1000 tickets for 5 euro and then have ‘tenner Tuesday’ etc. This way they build a crowd from the ground up.

    As for Wp, you mentioned catching the train. This is a vital point. Ellis Park has a station thag stops right at the ground but die to metrorail fucking up our trains and with these nie being danger zones you can never expect fans to use them.

  4. The Lions have tried that
    The Valke have tried it
    The Pumas have tried it
    The Leopards have tried it
    The Cheetahs have tried that

    It didn’t work.

  5. The Ellis Park train station is these days a taxi rank and thus mugging, murder, assault darkened black area frequented by criminals

  6. @Brendon:

    Ireland have 3 major clubs that caters for their supporters. SA Rugby has 14 unions.

    Ireland basically gets automatic qualification to the Heineken Cup (what generates money for them) irrespective of their local leagues (which is one of the reasons the Poms and French are breaking away from this comp), meaning there is no qualification process or promotion/relegation scenarios for their teams.

    South African rugby or SA unions can only really be compared to the game in England and France.

  7. @Boertjie:

    I believe he meant post-match activities. Sharks are known for their braai’s and stuff on the b-field post match which is a great scenario for families having a boerie while kids play on the field.

  8. If it was up to me personally, no dop to the public at rugby, end of story, no exceptions.

    If you have a problem with that, don’t go.

  9. You should have most of any stadium dedicated to families and a small section where people are allowed a drink. Far more crucial to not allow drunkards into the stadium.

  10. But Morne this is not about comparing Ireland to SA. It’s comparing a tream who is a minority sport in an isolated environment to teams like cheetahs who are just stuck marketing wise.

  11. Dawie the valke etc are all strangled by the lions. Dissolve the lions and you will see a few great new brands, including a predominantly English private school union based in north jhb. The Munster video talks about culture. The east rand culture will never be the Morningside culture so lions just a mess marketing wise

  12. And Morne, up until a mere 10 years ago Irish rugby was divided into 16 major clubs like Lansdowne and Garryowen and Shannon etc. They amalgamated into 4 provinces in much th same way as our teams did for super rugby.

    Munster and the cheetahs are the sane team. One markets it’s product and the other one asks Leon Shuster to sing a song

  13. “Munster and the cheetahs are the sane team.”

    What rubbish…

    Munster is the private and capitalist sector hub of Ireland… it’s economy contributes a massive 25% of the entire countries GDP over $50b per year… you name a major international company or bank and their headquarters are there… the Free State is a backward wasteland in comparison.

    Apples and Pears comparison yet again mate…

  14. @Morné:

    “If it was up to me personally, no dop to the public at rugby, end of story, no exceptions”

    Cannot agree more Morne. This is actually one of the reasons I do not take my family to the rugby that frequently any more. The amount of times I have seen guys who are already clearly drunk even before they enter the stadium is just off putting when you have kids with you.

  15. @Craven:

    I disagree… they need to ‘like the rest of the first world’ enforce responsible service of alcohol…

    -No service to intoxicated patrons
    -Offence to be intoxicated in public
    -Serve mid strength or light strength only

    Works here in Australia (for the most part) from bars to rugby fields…

  16. @Morné:

    Do RSA provinces (particularly on the lower end of the scale) need to up their own games?

    For sure! Bring on the solutions…

    Is comparing somewhere like Munster to the Cheetahs or Kwas or smaller regions/unions dishonest?

    You bet your bottom dollar!

    Mate as someone who has travelled Ireland intensively I find Brendon’s constant woefully inaccurate comparisons/analogies insulting to RW punter’s intelligence.

    Just a wee wiki of Munster would show just what an economic powerhouse the region is.

    Absolutely incomparable…

    Scroll down to ‘Economy’ and read until finish… first world compared to third world…

  17. @Brendon:


    The successful marketing of any product is dependent on a hundred different factors.

    How big is boerewors or Mrs. Balls Chutney over there? If we can sell a million units in SA in a year what are they doing wrong?

  18. Guys this is not a dick measuring contest. I am merely looking at examples of good marketing practise in rugby to see what our teams can learn from.

    Bryce for example looks at Munster as an economic area including cork. The team however is based in Limerick.

    Many years ago I traveled with the Lansdowne under 19’s team to play Garryowen and Thomond Park and Limerick was a true backwater much worse than Bloemfontein.

    Today they host the mighty Munster. Someone along the line did something right.

    And neither of you two bother to take into considerai that unlike Rugby in SA, the game in Ireland is a non event in daily major media.

    Are you seriously for one minute suggesting that Munster should by rights be a bigger union than thr cheetahs purely based on the Munster economy based in Cork- a non rugby city?

  19. Morne the point is our unions struggle to market a major product like rugby in a rugvy mad part of the world, where Munster markets very well a minor sport based in a small town.

  20. @Morné:

    In fact you boerewors analogy is plain stupid. But to use it: Munster are selling better a south African product like Rugby in a sceptical market, akin to Limerick selling more boerewors than bloenfontein.

    But hey, critisize anything South African rugby….

  21. @Brendon:

    No Brendon you just don’t get it.

    Marketing a product is influenced by a huge number of factors you simply choose to ignore point blank. You simply look at the end-product and try to compare with a complete disregard of very important factors that influences both outcomes.

    Everybody would love a better marketed product, but your approach to this is just ignorant.

    Rather ask why the Sharks with probably the least amount of rugby culture or history is the best marketed brand in the SA game.

    Or how can WP manage to fill stadiums having won one major trophy in 12 years and how the Cheetahs and Lions fail to do this. I think you will ‘fix’ a lot more if you disect what is already in front of you.

    Forget the comparisons with Ireland, it is stupid.

  22. My calculations based on wiki figures suggest Munster to have an economy twice the size of the freestate, most of which is generated in Cork.

    So with rugby being the 4th biggest sport and Limerick being the smaller town,a better comparison will be to say Munster is like the cheetahs franchise based in Welkom!

  23. @Morné:

    The sharks argument is a very good one. They built a rugvy culture through clever marketing and some astute signings.

    But you need to understand that SA is not the middle of the universe. It’s ok for us to try and learn from others.

    You come to Ireland and see for yourself the difference marketing makes and my argument is that rugby over here works much harder because the game does not have a broad natural following.

    We are complacent in SA.

  24. @bryce_in_oz:

    Good point, but an alcohol free stadium would also go down well. I see the experiment with an alcohol free area during the Championship tests in NZ was a huge success. So much so, that they expanded it.

    But I hear what you are saying, unfortunately enforcing laws and rules already in place is not a South African strong point.

  25. @Craven:

    Now you know why I’ve never been on a rugby train.

    Must say it’s a long time since I’ve heard of one.
    The railways, like everything else, is screwed
    beyond recognition.
    When the trains are late, they burn down the stations.
    Strange logic.

  26. @Craven:

    Stadiums cannot afford to not sell alcohol… and besides why should most punters be punished over a minority…

    But yeah RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) should be enforced in every venue in RSA from clubs to bars to pubs to stadia…

    They have 4 zones at AAMI park during Rebels games that are alcohol free… not the best seats in the house being the corners (albeit the stadium is state of the art and even behind the pale the view is great)…

    Not many punters use them… however I’ve never seen any over-the-top intoxication at any of their games…

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