RUGBY: Africa among the fastest-growing fan-bases

RUGBY: Africa among the fastest-growing fan-bases

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Rugby has nearly 800 million followers globally, while more than 338 million considering themselves fans, with India, China and the USA alone constituting almost 33 per cent of the population, according to the largest-ever market research into fan trends and perceptions conducted by World Rugby.

Published as the Rugby World Cup 2019 trophy tour visits India where there are 25.7 million fans of rugby, the research undertaken by Nielsen Sports paints a picture of a vibrant, growing sport that is increasingly broadening its global appeal.

Rugby is experiencing strong global participation growth with 9.1 million men, women and children (registered and casual participants) regularly playing the game, with growth driven by emerging rugby markets of large populations.
The research, undertaken across 88 markets, reflects participation trends, with significant increases in rugby interest driven by emerging markets since rugby’s Olympic Games inclusion:

  • 793 million people follow rugby globally, while 338 million consider themselves as fans – an increase of 24 per cent since 2013
  • The fanbase in emerging markets (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and USA) has increased by more than 50 per cent since 2013
  • Asia, North America, South America and Africa have the fastest-growing fan-bases with 112.5, 52.8, 38.2 and 32.7 million respectively
  • Of the 338 million fans, China and USA have 33 million fans, India 25 million fans and France 20 million fans, while RWC 2019 hosts Japan are in the top 10 fan-grossing nations with 14 million

With the stars of sevens having shone brightly at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco where 100,000 fans attended, the research also shows that emerging market fan growth has been driven by the impact and accessibility of the shorter form of the game, including rugby sevens, whose Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016 delivered a 16.8 million new fans across six markets researched immediately after the Games.

Sevens is also a format that World Rugby successfully employs to convert new fans in the digital space, with its high-action, short, easy-to-understand, made for social media format resonating with younger casual sports fans in particular, generating record video views an engagement rates.

Other highlights include:

  • The average age of a rugby fan is 36, this has fallen by two years since 2013, while the sport is increasingly attracting a younger audience in emerging rugby markets
  • 36 per cent of rugby fans globally are women or girls. In emerging markets, the corresponding figure is 34 per cent
  • USA, China, India, Mexico, Brazil and Japan in top 10 fan nations
  • Rugby Sevens interest has increased by 6 per cent since its Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016
  • Across key emerging markets in Asia, North America, South America and Africa, 63 per cent of rugby fans became fans after being inspired by shorter forms of the game
  • Participants highlight rugby’s values, fun and health benefits as major attractions to playing

The research reflects World Rugby’s strategic plan to ensure that the sport grows by attracting new audiences, whilst remaining relevant to existing fans by providing invaluable qualitative and quantitative data to shape fan-engagement strategies and benchmark performance via growth and perception trends.

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