Rugby is the fifth largest global team sport. Over 120 million people watched the Rugby World Cup Final in 2015. It is the fastest growing youth sport in the U.S., yet no professional league existed in North America. Until now.
PRO Rugby tapped us to be a partner in bringing the league to life digitally and socially. We saw an even bigger opportunity to make PRO Rugby a revolutionary launch by introducing it as a new kind of professional league: one that is run by and for the fans.
More and more professional sports leagues in America have become about big endorsements, big contracts, and big personalities. PRO Rugby set out to be different by bringing the league, the players, and the action back to the fans.
To achieve this, we did a deep analysis of the rugby community in the U.S. and specifically how fans consumed and interacted with content. In our research, we looked into other sports like NASCAR and Minor League Baseball because they have relied heavily on creating community and activating that community on a localized level.
Ultimately, our team determined that the key strategy would be to galvanize the hardcore U.S. fan base by giving them a sense of agency in the league's success. By delivering and curating content entirely via digital, social, and mobile channels, we’re able to give a global sport a professional stage in America and give every fan an all-access pass.
Tasked with creating PRO Rugby’s website and entire social presence before the start of their inaugural season, our team delved straight into design. With the logo already defined, we travelled to all five training camps to shoot iconic player and team photography and get a feel for the league.
We built a narrative and look around the players we met and one that would feel relevant to worldwide rugby fans. We wanted to hone in on the unique qualities of the sport and concluded that rugby is a game of big athletes, continuous action, and hitting. A lot of hitting. It requires tenacity and versatility, insane athleticism and endurance. This informed our design and visually meant adding texture and grittiness. With every post, image, and video, we wanted fans to agree: this is PRO Rugby.
Once the season started, fans were hungry for results, and the website’s core layout gives them what they want with a hierarchy of evolving weekly content, such as match schedules and box scores. This adaptability allows for updates to come through quickly and frequently.
A custom theme was developed to surface this content in a striking way, and to provide for further seasons and teams to be added without additional development. League-wide content is visible on the homepage and then is filtered down per team within each of the team pages.
After careful analysis, Wordpress was chosen as the core CMS due to editor familiarity and its powerful customization features. On top of this core, we then developed deep team, player, match, and schedule capabilities to support PRO Rugby’s unique requirements, as well as full media galleries and news.
Production & Client Services
We did more than just day-to-day client management; we worked directly with PRO Rugby on critical league decisions as a trusted advisor. From community management to scaling audience growth, our team did it all.
We continued our grassroots strategy by resourcing and empowering local market social media ambassadors to drive excitement, sell tickets, and rally around individual teams.
We generated content from the very first combines and training camps to chronicle the birth of the league and built an editorial calendar to deliver a steady cadence of content in varying formats.
Without the support of a major television network, we built live streaming of games into the website, providing a branded viewing experience for all fans.
Our largest activation was around providing a web-based format for fans to name each of the five inaugural teams. This is the first time in history that fans had the chance to name a professional sports team.
We let the teams play a few games with only city names so fans could see their playing styles and personalities. Then we opened up phase one: a free form entry for fans to submit suggestions for each team. Then, in combination with the league, three finalists were chosen and fans were encouraged to vote for their favorite, with a running percent of votes being shown in real time.
What resulted was five unique team names representative of their locations and the fans who picked them personally.
Without the support of paid media, our fan-direct strategy succeeded thanks to fan enthusiasm. Our first video was viewed over 100,000 times in the first few days, leading tens of thousands of fans to follow the league before the season even began. Over 13,000 fans participated in the Name Your Team activation. Ticket sales were very robust across the league and average views of streamed games were over 25 minutes.
Smart thinking, compelling design, and a process that flourishes with your contributions.