The Rugby League World Cup 2013 team have admitted that they perhaps underestimated the impact of the tournament – certainly online – and just how much this would go on to drive the success of the overall tournament.
Initial scepticism and worries that the tournament may flop in a similar fashion to the 2000 World Cup held in England was quickly replaced with satisfaction as records tumbled in terms of attendances and fans both based in the UK, and also travelling from overseas, turned out with great aplomb.
But in an article by Plusnet, a UK-based broadband ISP who researched the effect of the World Cup, Tom Coates, Media Executive for the World Cup, admitted that the results both online and in attendances illustrate that there is an obvious desire for more big events in the UK after the resounding success of the Olympics in 2012 and the World Cup the following year.
“It shows that there is an appetite for big, well marketed events in the UK, whatever sport it is, if the product is marketed well and to the right people”, said Coates.
“Sell-out crowds communicated the message that this tournament [was] a success, and the rewards we got from that was heightened interest in the matches that followed. We believe that people want to be a part of something that is successful, relevant and fashionable.”
With the Four Nations reverting back to Australia in 2014, it will be a few years before UK-based fans will get to see another international tournament and it will be a challenge to maintain the interest following some extensive marketing to attract new spectators.
“The internet has been central to the marketing and promotion of Rugby League World Cup 2013. Driving fans and members of the public to our website through social media and the publication of original and engaging content has played a key role in the success of the tournament in terms of attendances and public awareness.
“We built both social media channels from scratch and have always maintained a policy of placing our supporters at the forefront of everything we do, on Facebook and Twitter in particular.
“We sought interaction, conversation and debate with supporters and responded and acted upon their comments and criticisms whenever possible. It helped to build a healthy online community where members feel valued and respected.”
And that community is set to continue with the World Cup social media accounts rebranded to keep all fans engaged with the sport and utilise the large following the game has built up. The word legacy has been said on numerous occasions as a particular ambition of the World Cup team as they look ahead to handing over the reins to the next hosts in either South Africa or Australia and New Zealand in 2017.
“We are currently in the process of implementing a legacy plan for the RLWC2013 Facebook and Twitter accounts, which [has seen] both pages rebranded and renamed [@IntlRL and facebook.com/intlrl] for the purpose of continuing to connect with fans of international Rugby League, and growing and nurturing the online community we have already built ahead of the next Rugby League World Cup.”
With a new season nearly upon us, it will certainly be interesting to see just what impact the World Cup has had in attracting and inspiring, if at all, a new generation of fans.