Toby Hill explains why this major sporting event represents a huge sales opportunity for wholesalers across a variety of categories
The ninth Rubgy World Cup kicks off on 20 September, and, with all four home nations vying for glory, it provides a fantastic opportunity for wholesalers to push sales across a range of categories.
Running until the start of November, with matches taking place on weeknights and weekends, many fans will be looking to enhance the excitement of match days with alcohol, soft drinks, snacks and quick meals.
Attack the alcohol
Nothing drives customers to the alcohol aisle like a sporting event, and as the Rubgy World Cup heads into view, retailers will be looking to wholesalers to ensure they’re fully stocked on the right range of booze to capture that spike in demand.
Leading the pack is, of course, beer. In the UK, no brand is more associated with rugby than Guinness, which has underlined that relationship through a series of advertising and sponsorship campaigns. While cans of the stout remain essential to Diageo, the manufacturer has worked to diversify the brand in recent years by harnessing trends towards craft and ales.
Wholesalers can therefore consider bulking out their range with varieties such as Citra IPA and Open Gate Pilsner, both of which launched last year.
Another brand that has worked to make itself synonymous with sport is Heineken, with lager lines such as Heineken, Amstel and Kronenbourg 1664 all filling up fridges during events.
The popularity of craft has also catalysed premiumisation across the beer category, and bottled European lagers, such as Birra Moretti and Staropramen, are worth highlighting to quality-conscious customers.
Indeed, world beer is currently the fastest-growing lager category, growing 13% year on year, according to Nielsen statistics. Global Brands’ Amigo’s Tequila Beer provides an easy way for wholesalers to tap into these trends, matching up with the Mexican flavours of Old El Paso while also appealing to the growing number of female rubgy fans – 34% of Amigo’s drinkers are female, compared with 13% across the beer category.
It’s not just about beer, either. Pre-mixed cocktails are also seeing strong sales growth and are well suited to the Rugby World Cup’s diverse audience.
“It is important for wholesalers to stock products that cater toward consumer demand and diverse audiences, including students,” says Thomas Bennett, trade marketing controller at Global Brands. He highlights options such as VK, the number-one student pre-mixed brand for five years running, and Hooch, available in both traditional lemon- and tropical-flavoured Hoola Hooch varieties.
Scrum down for soft drinks
While there’s no doubt booze will be a big seller, trends towards health-conscious consumption will see an increasing number of rubgy fans choosing to go soft – encouraged by the fact that many of the matches are taking place midweek.
“With an estimated 6.1 million people now choosing not to consume alcohol, it’s vital for wholesalers to provide a range of soft drinks during the Rugby World Cup,” says Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP). “Sharing formats are a frontrunner for these occasions, and with matches scheduled all week, ensuring shelves remain stocked up with well-known brands can help maximise sales.”
Trends have coalesced to drive huge year-on-year increases in sales of low- and zero-sugar soft drinks, Burgess adds, so, larger bottles are worth considering.
Another sub-category in strong growth is that of adult soft drinks. Brands such as Appletiser and Schweppes are recording some of the strongest sales in their long history, while few brands have harnessed these trends as successfully as Italian sparkling water firm S.Pellegrino.
It recently launched a new range of mineral water drinks in three flavours – Lemon & Lemon Zest, Tangerine & Strawberry and Dark Morello Cherry & Pomegranate – which would make a strong addition to Rugby World Cup displays.
With the drinks sorted, wholesalers can move on to keeping bellies full and tastes buds satisfied with the right range of snacks and quick meals.
“The Rugby World Cup provides a great opportunity for wholesalers to take advantage of increased spend in the crisps, nuts and bagged snacks category,” says Simon King, marketing director at Burts Chips, highlighting industry stats showing that the category is experiencing 5% growth.
King suggests drawing on the association between rugby and Guinness to offer Burts’ range of Guinness-flavoured crisps. Other alcohol-themed flavours will suit rugby fans with a penchant for stronger stuff – Jim Beam Original Barbecue and Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon bring together sweet, smoky BBQ flavours that are perfect for autumn days.
Alternatively, industry analysts point to trends for more adventurous flavours, as increasingly well-travelled Brits look to bring the taste of their holidays home. For example, Burts’ Levi Roots Reggae Reggae crisps are ideal for wholesalers looking to add Caribbean sunshine to sports fixtures.
With several of the tournament’s biggest matches falling on weeknights, wholesalers will want to support retailers in offering quick meals that their customers can enjoy easily without having to take their eyes off the action.
“The practice of ‘appointment-to-view television’ will be more prominent from September to November 2019 during the Rugby World Cup,” says Paula Wyatt, head of marketing at Dr Oetker. “In turn, this will provide the perfect excuse for retailers to stock quick meal choices and encourage big nights in.”
Bringing it together
Getting each of these elements of the lineup right is the first step. Just as important are the tactics with which you deploy them on the field of play. Marketing experts recommend bringing them together into cross-category displays that emphasise the rugby occasion.
“Creating a meal-deal solution incorporating a range of convenience products is also a great opportunity to promote big nights in and evening meals,” adds Wyatt.