Tag Archives: Rugby

Rugby Tackles New Technology With Impressive Results

Rory Nicolson is a graduate of the University of Stirling and currently Social Media Manager at rugbystore. A long suffering supporter of the Scotland and Edinburgh rugby teams, he creates content for rugbystore.co.uk.

When you think about rugby, what comes to mind? Muddy scrums, broken noses and crunching tackles? Most of us don’t think immediately think about statistics and game data. But with technology becoming a more prominent part of the game, it won’t be long before we’re discussing GPS as much as players, and Ref cams as much as tries.

Continue reading Rugby Tackles New Technology With Impressive Results

The Passion of the Fans: Understanding the Impact of Demographic Data

Chelsea Varney is a Community Manager for Brandwatch, a social media monitoring company. You can catch her on the company’s blog as well as her Twitter page.

Regardless of whether a team is soaring high in the league or failing miserably, you can be certain of one thing, fans will be discussing each match online.

The conversation on social media will always reflect the mood around a team, as fans don’t hold back when giving their opinions.

Continue reading The Passion of the Fans: Understanding the Impact of Demographic Data

Scarlets Rugby bring Season Ticket flyer to life using AR

Welsh rugby club, Scarlets Rugby, have teamed up with augmented reality innovators Blippar to launch a new interactive flyer in a bid to get a sales boost of 2014/15 season tickets .

Blippar is the leading mobile image-recognition platform for publishers, brands and advertisers and brings all types of print products to life. Aside from Scarlets Rugby they have worked with Pepsi, TIME Inc, Unilever, Nestle, P&G, Jaguar and many others. So the club’s in good company!

The ‘Invest. Inspire. Ignite.’ flyer launched today gives the reader a through-the-looking-glass view of Scarlets matchday including a walk through the home dressing room. With the help of Blippar, the Scarlets bring the static, physical world to life enhancing supporters’ Parc y Scarlets matchday experience wherever they are.

“As a leading sports club and facilities venue we have already showed our ambition to become a showcase for energy efficiency within stadia environments shortlisted as one of six finalists across the globe in Stadium Business Summit Awards. Today’s release of our interactive flyer shows what ambition we have to make strides in other areas of the business.

Scarlets is a name that resonates across the rugby world and we continue to strive to be the best. We are excited by the release of our interactive flyer and hope that our supporters will welcome this interactive communication tool. This is merely a taste of what’s to come!” – Scarlets General Manager, Jon Daniels


It’s an interesting move, a first for a UK rugby club. We’ve seen glimpses of the use of AR in sport before through the Aurasma‘s sponsorship of Tottenham Hotspur. When first announced the new kit launch campaign had AR integrated into it and proved a hit with fans and the industry. And this was back in 2011! But we’ve not seen any major take up, missing out on the possibilities that the use of AR provides. To many it may be seen as cost prohibitive?

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It will be interesting to see both the pick up from trade (and normal) press and, more importantly, the fans. The final measure will be season ticket sales for the 2014-15 season, then it will be seen if it lasts more than the one summer promo.

Love to hear your thoughts below…


The RFU: Implementing A Data Driven Social Media Strategy

This week we’ve been lucky enough to catch up with The RFU’s Social Media Manager, Josh Ayto. He came into the Twickenham based governing body for rugby in the summer of last year. Since then he’s overseen a period of growth across all their channels and a change of strategy along the way.

Hi Josh, thanks for taking time out to chat to Digital Sport today. To start off can you give us an idea of what were the social media platform stats when you arrived.

When I joined here we had a total social reach of 708,784 in July 2013 (over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). As of the end of the 6 Nations we have 1,205,413 fans following us with new channels like Google+ contributing over 70k.

What freedom were you given to develop the social media strategy and what were your objectives? 

What’s been great is having the ability to set my own strategy and goals for social here, since there wasn’t really much before. Two of the RFU’s key objectives are to grow the game and broaden the reach of rugby, I took that literally to grow our social reach and grow it a lot, so when the Rugby World Cup comes round we’re already a social power house and can take advantage of the huge mass media event it will be here. While growth was important, we then wanted to grow in the right way, through engagement, through being more interactive, more connected and adding more value to our fans. In sport we’re lucky that, for the most part, we have great stories to tell and the potential to capture amazing content that people deeply care about so my focus was more towards optimising the delivery of that content, via social, to suit our fans.

So how did this fit in with your idea of being more data driven?

The idea of taking a rigorous data-driven approach was born from the fact, like many companies, we didn’t have the resource to waste – everything we do we have to learn from and keep iterating to make it the best we can and if something wasn’t working, we’d kill it and move on. So now everything we put on social is tracked and benchmarked, we’ve built up rich insights into our fans and what works/when but also it allows us to very quickly see if new ideas are working, based on real fan feedback. We track multiple social and digital metrics, RTs, Likes, +1 and clicks, Website UVs and more. What this means is we can work harder for our fans and offer them the best content we can at the right time for them, while not overloading their social feeds when we’re not that relevant to them.

We’ve been through two big England tournaments now using this strategy and the continued increase in performance has been great – 2.25x and 2.9x increase in growth on Twitter and Facebook respectively during the 6 Nations vs QBE Internationals 2013, an 11% increase in clicks to the website from Twitter per Test week.

And what does the future hold for the RFU and your work across social?

Continuing to build and learn on what we have, trying new channels and continuing to trial new ideas. A lot of our focus is on the World Cup next year and also what then happens after that where, hopefully, we’ll be talking a massive influx of new fans into the game.


Thanks Josh for your time and we look forward to the Summer Tour and the World Cup next year!



#DigiSport Job: Communications Assistant Internship @ Rugby Players’ Association

A unique opportunity for an internship within a well-respected rugby organisation has arisen at a very exciting time for the sport with the Rugby World Cup 2015 fast approaching.

The Rugby Players’ Association can offer a 12 month placement with immediate effect for a confident, well organised individual looking to gain practical work experience.

Working across our Communications department you will have the opportunity to be involved in the production of the RPA’s publications, The Players’ Room Magazine and our digital app, 15 Magazine, as well as providing website content, overseeing our various social media channels and developing member communications.

You will need to have the ability to work independently, have excellent creative writing skills and preferably a background in Journalism or Media studies. A good knowledge of Microsoft Word, WordPress, Adobe Photoshop and a basic understanding of the sport would be advantageous.

You will be paid an hourly rate of £6.31 during the internship and receive an annual holiday allowance commensurate with the role.

If this role is of interest, please send your CV with a 500 word article on ‘The role of the RPA’ to smunday@theRPA.co.uk. Alternatively, please post your details to the following address:

Stuart Munday
Finance & HR Director
The Rugby Players’ Association
5th Floor
Regal House
London Road

Closing date: 26th March 2014. (Please assume that you have been unsuccessful on this occasion if you are not contacted within 14 days of the closing date)


Hull KR fans get exclusive digital content through new SmartPicture app

Guest Post: James Gordon is the MD of digital sports agency, Sportbox Media, set up in 2010 through his love of sport and digital. A Journalism graduate from the University of Central Lancashire, he was head-hunted for a job at leading digital agency Fast Web Media, where he worked on the official Carling Cup website, rugby sponsorship activation accounts for O2 and Leaders in Football.

Rugby League Super League club Hull KR are turning to digital to help revitalise a traditional mainstay of a sporting event, the match day programme.

SmartPicture is a new app developed by Eon Visual Media, available on Google Play and iTunes store, that enables fans to scan images on the match programmes with a mobile device to access a vast range of online content tailored to each fixture.

It was used for the first time in the home game against Castleford last Friday, and supporters can download it now to get access to video footage, competitions, team statistics and the club’s online commerce site. The app also promotes interactivity with and between the fans through social media.

Hull KR Marketing Manager, Craig Franklin, says the club are making an extra effort to embrace digital this season.

“All print publications are struggling, and the match day programme is no different. Instead of trying to grow it, you’re just looking at ways you can maintain it.

“A lot of the content in the programme is already in the public domain before the match, so the app now enables us to create more exclusive content and add value back in to the programme.

“It means the programme is no longer confined to the number of pages. We don’t want to stand still, and we want to continue to develop and add more features, such as a man of the match vote.”

The Robins revealed their squad numbers one by one via Twitter earlier this year, from 30 all the way down, and are holding mini fans forum events every week which includes highlights of games.

They have seen a growth in their Twitter following over recent months due to a number of these initiatives, and they hope to hold live web chats in the near future.

With a vast array of digital technologies at every club’s disposal these days, Franklin admits it’s difficult to keep up, as well as maintaining their marketing efforts in traditional areas.

The beauty of the new app means that their traditional programme can run unaffected, and readers won’t be able to see a noticeable difference from pre-app productions. He added:

“It’s very difficult. There are various ways to do things, and I don’t think there are many organisations who have got it spot on. The web and social media are so important, but there are still people who don’t use of any of these, so we’ve still got to make things like the programme available.

“The flip side is there is the younger generation who want everything quickly and up to date, and there are so many platforms to talk to them on. It’s a balancing act, combining that with fulfilling traditional duties such as local newspaper and radio coverage, which are so important to the club.”

The challenge in making these new platforms work is them being embraced by other clubs too. With clubs not competing for the same fans, on the basis that someone wouldn’t switch allegiance, if a club finds that something works, then others should follow suit.

And Franklin says that the app will be even better if more clubs sign up. He added:

“It brings the possibility of cross-club activity. We could then work with say Castleford to produce content for their fans, which means we can potentially engage with everybody in the stadium.”


During the Castleford game more than 50% of people who bought a programme at Hull KR’s match scanned it using the app. So a great starting point for engagement and interaction. Could this be the start of something big?

O2 launches ‘Wear the Rose’ – the first fully immersive 360-degree virtual reality sports experience

England Rugby shirt sponsor O2 today announced that it has created ‘Wear the Rose’, the first fully immersive 360-degree virtual reality sports experience, using the revolutionary Oculus Rift technology.

‘Wear the Rose’ from O2 will allow fans to be immersed in a multi-sensory take-over and feel as though they are part of the Senior England Rugby Team, whether it’s a team talk from Captain Chris Robshaw, getting tackled by hooker Tom Youngs, or receiving a pass from fullback Mike Brown.

The experience was created using nine GoPro Hero 3 cameras in a custom built gimble, specifically designed to exploit the capabilities of Oculus Rift. After developing the technology to capture the video, it took a further 160 hours of filming and 320 hours of development to create an experience that allows users to turn their head in any direction, with the content responding and moving in unison, displaying a full 360-degree visual spectrum.

People will be transported into a world where they find themselves on the rugby training pitch, surrounded by familiar faces from England’s Elite Player Squad. ‘Wear the Rose’ allows fans to train with the England team, participating in genuine drills directed by England Attacking Skills Coach Mike Catt, which will take their senses to the limit and make them feel as though they have just stepped in for their very first England call-up.

“We love discovering new ways of using technology to deliver exciting experiences for our customers, and what better way to bring England Rugby fans closer to the action than ‘Wear the Rose’ from O2.  We’ll transport you into the virtual rugby boots of the England squad, taking in the heart pounding action of a full training session. This exciting technology really has to be experienced to be believed and we’re looking forward to bringing it to rugby fans across the UK this year.” – Nina Bibby, Marketing and Consumer Director at O2

Released to coincide with the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, ‘Wear the Rose’ demonstrates O2’s on-going commitment to bringing rugby fans closer to the action, and enriching customers’ lives through the latest digital technology. This follows last year’s launch of O2 Matchday, a free multi-platform rugby app that uses exclusive Ref!Link technology to provide a live feed from the referees microphone directly to any device.

“It was great to work with O2 on the development of ‘Wear the Rose’, getting to see the technology used for the first time in sport was fantastic. We tried to re-create as authentic an England training session for rugby fans as possible, and we really hope they enjoy the experience.” – Mike Catt, England Attacking Skills Coach

Further details on ‘Wear the Rose’ from O2 will be released later this month, including where it will be possible to experience the technology first hand.

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New Digital Platform for the 2014 RBS 6 Nations

When the RBS 6 Nations kicks off for the start of the 2014 Championship this weekend, they will be doing so on a brand new digital platform. The new platform, available in English, French and Italian, includes dynamic web and mobile sites, a Virtual Press Office, Digital Media Guide and Judiciary Platform. RBS6Nations.com

Digital Sports Agency Sotic worked with the Six Nations Committee and its related stakeholders to design and build an innovative digital platform using the latest technology ensuring the ultimate user experience for those following the action.

When ‘Rugby’s Greatest Championship’ kicks off, the website will follow the on-field action with live match coverage of all the games, in-game statistics, live images and commentary in close partnership with the official statistic provider, Opta. The site offers a wealth of historical statistics from the competition, as well as embedded YouTube video highlights from present and past fixtures.

Complementing the website is the mobile friendly platform accessible from any smart phone or tablet. The content during matches focuses on the live action, defaulting the fans’ view to the match centre for instant updates on all the fixtures. Last year, over 51% of all site visits came from a mobile or tablet device.

The media have their own dedicated Virtual Press Office from where they can access the new Digital Media Guide. Dynamically updated after each g­­­­­ame, the guide displays content for journalists and broadcasters even when they are offline, unlike web pages.

“We are delighted with the new digital solution. We have an online presence that is as dynamic and expansive as the Championship itself and we hope that all fans enjoy the online experience we are delivering for them.” – Shane Whelan, Head of Digital @ Six Nations Committee

Alongside the main tournament are all the details for the Women’s Six Nations, Under-20 Six Nations, and the Under 18’s competition. Fixtures, results, squads, history and statistics are all available on the sites and within the Digital Media Guide.

The website boasts huge traffic numbers as was evident last year when the tournament was one of the world’s top ten trending sports sites during the 2013 Championship.

To catch the latest RBS 6 Nations news visit http://www.rbs6nations.com




Spurs top Social Media league table of 148 UK sports teams

The first ever index ranking British professional football, rugby and cricket teams according to social media performance has been launched with Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur topping the tree.

The Sport Social Media Index is a league table of 148 British professional football (English Premier League, Championship, Leagues One and Two; plus the SPL) rugby (Super League and Premiership) and cricket (County Championship Divisions One and Two) teams, ranked according to the best use of social media by their official club channels.

To be published annually, The Sport Social Media Index, produced by PR and social media agency Umpf with partners William Hill, was four months in the making.  The table is compiled by measuring the performance of each team based not just on an algorithm, but research from a team of nine people who looked at eight social networks, as well as a panel of four judges who presided over the results.

It includes an overall table of 148 teams ranked first to last, plus nine additional tables showing rankings based on each sporting league.

The leading professional team in the inaugural Sport Social Media Index is Tottenham Hotspur with a score of 69.9 out of 100, more than two points ahead of second-placed Chelsea (67.6) and almost three points ahead of Leyton Orient in third (67).

According to the judges, Spurs generated a strong data score with excellent levels of community engagement, offering a great breadth of social media channels, which it used to their potential.

Michael Sheehan, Social Media Customer Experience Manager at William Hill, said:

“Tottenham deserved to be crowned this year’s winners as they have truly mastered the art of engaging with their fans on multiple platforms. Their content is fresh, engaging and resonates well with their supporters.

“Leeds Rhinos were another notable winner in their respective category as they have also demonstrated a clear understanding of social media. Their use of clever hashtags and stunning imagery has shown the importance of social media for educating and engaging with fans and potential supporters alike.”

Full league tables, methodology and judges’ bios available at :www.sport.socialmediaindex.co.uk

So, how did the judges decide upon the final results?  Be way of an insight, below are three case studies covering Premier League, League 1 and Rugby League.  It shows what types of content and interaction saw them being picked out as examples of the best there is.  Do you agree with the judges?



Tottenham Hotspur generated a strong data score with excellent engagement.  The club not only has a great breadth of social media channels – including official pages on Vine, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google Plus – but uses them to their potential.

Judges acknowledged the variety of content available across all channels, praising the platform-by-platform tailoring of content, noting that material was used when it was appropriate for that channel. Judges were also impressed by the strength of video content.

The availability of unique, behind-the-scenes footage was another highlight, and it is no surprise that this activity receives very high engagement as it taps into fans’ curiosity.

Match day coverage is also excellent and the club provides detailed coverage of the first team, U21s and U18s.

This image generated in excess of 12,000 likes and more than 1,000 shares.




Leyton Orient is the highest placed non-Premier League football team in the Index. The East London club – which averages home attendances of around 5,500 – had one of the highest data scores of all 148 teams.

Its ratio of community growth, engagement, responsiveness, plus range and depth of activity enabled the club to achieve high scores in the algorithm.  Orient scored well with judges who praised their excellent breadth of official channels, use of media and noted their high levels engagement.

Judges said Leyton Orient showed a great understanding of what content their fans like to see and were generally in tune to the wants and needs of their communities.

The use of archive material, such as the ‘on this day’ stories, plus Q&A sessions with high profile figures such as the manager and chairman and use of hashtags to monitor and collate questions, were noted by the panel for generating large reach.

Jonny Davies Media & Communications Manager at Leyton Orient said: “Our social media channels are hugely important to us. Not only do they allow us to break news to fans as soon as it happens, but they also allow us to give fans a more 360-degree view of the club and make them feel at the heart of everything we do.”

leyton orient



Rugby League side Leeds Rhinos finished fifth place in the overall Index, the highest placed non-football team. The Yorkshire club received a very strong data score, good marks for the amount of official channels available to fans, and for the content that was used on each.

The judges highlighted the excellent use of hashtags across the board as well as clever use of visual assets such as their Facebook cover picture to advertise upcoming games and player achievements.

Also noted was the impressive use of fan photos from home games, the constantly changing cover photos, as well as behind-the-scenes access – although not groundbreaking, the panel agreed that it showed a willingness by the club to put time and resources in to creating content which can be consumed by fans for free.

As well as the timeliness of distribution and the responsiveness of moderators, judges were generally impressed with the club’s understanding of social media and how their staff fostered and developed communities.



Newcastle Falcons target Fan Engagement with new Mobile app

At the start of the December, Newcastle Falcons, the North East’s only professional rugby club, teamed up with local tech company Spontly to produce a new interactive experience for fans of the club.

What they have looked to create is a Newcastle Falcons’ mobile App that enables fans to take photos and post commentary during a match which will be instantly available online.

The app is available for both iOS and Android devices and allows fans within the Falcons’ Kingston Park stadium, elsewhere across the region and beyond to share every moment of top-flight rugby in the North.

Duncan Edward, commercial director at Newcastle Falcons said:

“The club has seen a big increase in fan engagement since we fully embraced social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and since the recent launch of our new website. For us the Newcastle Falcons App is the next phase of that strategy to engage with fans through the use of new technology.”

“We’re very excited to be amongst the first businesses to produce our own mobile app using the Spontly product. The technology available through Spontly allows us to interact directly with our fans and opens up many new and exciting ideas to help us provide fans with a top class match day experience. The App also has extra benefits for a wide range of off-field events held at Kingston Park and this is something we look forward to exploring further.”

It launched in time for the first game of the month against Harlequins.  With the help of some promotion by the club, they achieved some encouraging results;

  • 1000 app downloads
  • 250+ posts to Facebook and Twitter during the match
  • Increased website traffic
  • Data collected from every user

Jim Mann, CEO at Spontly, reported on the first weekend of its use by saying:

“The initial uptake and usage from the Falcons fans has been amazing – way beyond what we had anticipated. The usual 90:10 rule of content creators to content consumers holds in terms of posting but we have seen far more people active in other ways, checking in to events and following each other. We are very excited about the rapid uptake and looking forward to seeing how the network grows”

When I asked Jim about an issue that we have discussing in more frequency at events and on Twitter recently is stadium connectivity.  So how does an app that is aimed at those within the stadium mainly handle this?

It’s obviously a question that they have been looking to answer as well.  According to Jim they use compression techniques and an outbox function that stores and then sends the posts in the background as and when there is a connection.  So even in short periods of time when this is available they will be sent from the outbox.  Thus relying more on 3G than any wifi connections.

The ultimate aim for them has been to design a seamless user experience, very important when looking to draw users in on a regular basis.  So even though there may not be a connection, the app still works the same.  The end of those annoying error messages hopefully.

The Newcastle Falcons App is available free of charge from the iTunes and Google App stores.