Brett Gillett
Oct 30, 2019

The Rugby World Cup: A game-changer for advertisers in Japan

Host Japan's success on the pitch led to big audience gains for brand sponsors like Canon and advertisers like Subaru, showing how big TV events can optimise multi-screen digital campaigns, prior to the 2020 Olympic Games.

Canon was an official sponsor of Japan's Rugby World Cup
Canon was an official sponsor of Japan's Rugby World Cup

Rugby may not be Japan’s national sport, but the World Cup is changing the game with awareness levels hitting an all-time high of 83.9%. This is a rise from just over half (51.2%) of the population since 2015, according to the World Cup Organising Committee. The Japanese games especially reached larger audiences than ever before, causing Japan to break the record for a single-market live audience for its home team game versus Ireland.

But what does this mean for the brands that invested in the ad spots? Looking at performance, brands looking to leverage major upcoming sporting events in Japan can capitalise on the learnings from ad campaigns ran during the Rugby World Cup.

More wins for Japan, more eyes for brands

As the Japanese team advanced through the tournament, the following matches gained even greater ratings. The game against Russia, for example, saw 18.3% of the total viewership and this rose to 28.9% on NHK for Japan’s second match against Ireland. Given Japan has six main broadcasters—one public service and five private—and the prime-time slot for the games, this figure is likely to have delivered a live audience of approximately 30 million.

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If Japan were to be eliminated early, ratings would have most likely dropped off at the start of the tournament. Instead, advertisers are being placed in front of large audience numbers (41.6% for the quarter-finals), making their budgets stretch further—and providing greater value—than initially anticipated.The most impressive ratings shortly followed for the Japan versus Scotland match, with over half of Japan’s entire population tuning in to watch the host nation reach the quarter-finals for the first time. And even though Japan missed out on the semi-finals—following a loss to South Africa—advertisers benefited from the successful performance of the Japanese athletes. A losing team would not have achieved ratings of 39.2% in the game versus Scotland, and it’s this game that allowed Japan to be the first Asian team to qualify for the quarter-finals in the first place.

But landing a spectacular viewership figure isn’t the only goal of TV advertising—even though sporting events, and the Rugby World Cup in particular, are highly effective at brand building and maximising awareness. Advertisers must also utilise TV ad placements to drive audience engagement and performance through their campaigns.

TV scores audience response 

Thanks to the consumer trend of second-screening, where viewers use handheld digital devices while watching TV, advertisers can optimise TV ads to boost digital search activity and conversions. Canon—one of the games’ sponsors in Japan, for example—witnessed a marked rise in search activity during the half-time break of the Japan versus Samoa match on October 5th.

Source: TV Squared

Using phones, laptops and tablets, consumers flocked online to search for Canon, demonstrating a clear peak in engagement as a result of TV ads and the brand’s association with the sporting event.

Delving further into the data for this game, the half-time break also offered an effective ad spot for auto brand Subaru, which saw a sharp increase in search activity, and the same can be seen for drink brand Lipovitan-D.

Source: TV Squared

This brand, however, saw even greater performance pre-match and a notable peak post-match as well.

Source: TV Squared

Through visibility into the impact of their TV campaigns, advertisers can attribute results to ad spots and resulting performance uplift. Understanding how, when and where consumers are engaging with brands, led by TV ads, is essential to maximising ad spend and driving return on investment (ROI). It’s clear from analysing results of this randomly chosen Japanese game, brands advertising in Japan can effectively optimise ad campaigns to deliver on this, with granular, real-time insights into audience behaviours.

5G is changing the state of play

With the launch of 5G via Docomo’s new base station, advertisers will need to understand how these technological advancements impact both broadcasters and viewers. This emerging technology will maximise the interconnectivity of media platforms and dramatically change how consumers use their digital devices.

5G opens up the potential for TV to be viewed on mobile phones, meaning that even more people will be watching on the go, and audiences will be fragmenting further. In response to this, advertisers will need to make sure connected devices and over-the-top (OTT) are front of mind when planning campaigns. Advertising needs to be effective across all media platforms—meaning that TV and digital cannot operate in silos—and the Japan Rugby World Cup can help prepare advertisers for these developments.

By understanding how TV campaigns impact digital activity in real-time, as demonstrated by the response to Canon, Subaru, and Lipovitan-D’s ads, brands can implement digital advertising strategies that support and evolve this engagement. Through a connected media strategy, ad campaigns across media platforms can be harmonised to guide consumers along the marketing funnel and maximise conversion rates.

Despite ongoing developments in the advertising landscape, TV remains integral to not only brand building, but boosting audience engagement and driving performance. The Rugby World Cup presents brands with the means to test the effectiveness of media strategies and leverage the data insights in future campaigns around major sporting events. Optimising TV ads in this way ensures that brands will utilise their media budgets efficiently, scoring the ultimate goal for advertisers—the best ROI.

Brett Gillett is global director of business development at TV audience measurement firm, TVSquared.



Campaign Asia

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