As another Rugby Championship reaches its conclusion this weekend and the All Blacks have the opportunity to win the Grand Slam, SANZAAR are worryingly quiet on the matter.
The Rugby Championship contains the top three sides in the world and the talented Argentina going head to head across six rounds. Some of the very best players in the world take to the field week after week and fight for the right to claim the title of best side in the southern hemisphere (and some would argue, the world).
This year, the All Blacks have the rare opportunity to win all six games and be crowned as the Grand Slam winners. If they achieve that, they will have beaten Australia, South Africa and Argentina twice each in the space of six weeks, scored over 200 points and at least 25 tries.
If you were a marketing professional you might look at that situation and be thinking of all the obvious promotional opportunities that you’d be planning this week ahead of the All Blacks final game against the Springboks.
Can the All Blacks conquer all?
Can the best side in the world defeat the World Champions to claim the Grand Slam?
The messaging writes itself.
Yet, as the countdown to kick off ticks by, there is so little word from SANZAAR that you couldn’t blame the Kiwis for taking it quite personally.
As Gregor Paul of the NZ Herald said in his article this week, “This should be an open goal for Sanzaar.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only marketing mistake from SANZAAR. It’s not even the only one from them in the past week. It is, as fans of the game around the world can attest, the latest in a long line of promotional errors from an organisation that has arguably the greatest rugby product in the world and yet has no idea what to do with it.
Last week, they failed to deliver a simple photo shoot of the four skippers by managing to get only three of them together at the same time. Not only a blown PR opportunity but it turned into a diplomatic issue as SANZAAR scrambled an apology to Julián Montoya and Los Pumas.
Earlier this year they failed entirely to organise overseas media distribution rights for the Super Rugby competition until after the competition had started. While other sports from Australia and globally have been capitalising for years on dedicated online streaming services to reach paying fans around the world, SANZAAR have been unable to get even the most basic offering off the ground.
Some might argue that the true Grand Slam in rugby is the one associated with the Six Nations. In that competition, the term truly means something and teams that win it go down in legend. Maybe trying to replicate that level of meaning isn’t going to happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean that SANZAAR shouldn’t start to build that depth of meaning.
As far as Gregor Paul is concerned, SANZAAR only have themselves to blame when looking at reasons why The Rugby Championship struggles to attract the same level of fan engagement as the Six Nations.
“It fails to rival the Six Nations because SANZAAR can’t pluck even the low-hanging fruit,” Paul believes, and there is plenty of evidence to back up his claim.
SANZAAR have in the past blamed cost getting in the way of them doing more in the digital and media space. Budgets are budgets and if you don’t have the cash, that takes certain options off the table.
But if they don’t have the funding available then why are they also going after high quality, independent rugby analysis and content creators on platforms such as YouTube and taking down their content? Why not reach out to them and find a way to collaborate?
These content creators have highly engaged audiences from all over the world who want to see more rugby. The more they see, the more likely they are to move from just watching the analysis to also watching for and paying for the full matches.
It’s this short-sighted thinking that has led to SANZAAR missing out on so many opportunities to grow Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship in terms of engagement and revenue.
As the All Blacks try to claim the southern hemisphere’s Grand Slam and present SANZAAR with yet another opportunity, will we see them take advantage of it?
Don’t hold your breath.