At the beginning of this year, World Rugby appointed Capgemini as its global innovation partner to lead the digital transformation of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the governing body’s annual circuit of international rugby sevens tournaments.
Rugby is nothing new to Capgemini, which has had an affiliation with the sport for the last 25 years through its sponsorship of two teams in France – where the company resides – and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. However, the opportunity to take its involvement further by partnering with an annual, international, ten-leg competition was seemingly too good to turn down.
With more than 50 years of experience and over 200,000 employees, Capgemini has promised to enhance the fan experience for current and future spectators at World Rugby Sevens Series events, while it also intends to use data and infographics to augment the tournament experience in stadiums, on television and on social media.
Ahead of this weekend’s sevens tournament in Las Vegas, Capgemini’s global group marketing and communications director Virginie Régis (right) explains why the company’s decision to partner with World Rugby was both a sponsorship and recruitment exercise, and describes how it plans to use player and game data to drive fan engagement.
How did your partnership with the World Rugby Sevens Series come about, and why is the sport a good fit for your brand?
We set ourselves a challenge internally to change our sponsorship programme, and based on that challenge, we scanned the various options.
When you look at Capgemini’s heritage, we love rugby and have always been very close to the sport for several reasons. The main one is how close our founder Serge Kampf is with this sport. He’s set up a series of values within the group which are very much inspired by rugby, so we find a lot of similarities between our values and those of the sport. We also used to sponsor two rugby clubs in France, but it was important for us to find a partnership that was closer to the scale of our company today. When we were looking at the options, the Sevens Series quickly emerged as the option we wanted to pursue.
There are many different reasons for that, the first of which being that rugby sevens is an international tournament. The fact that it takes place on an annual basis is also beneficial for our marketers and comms directors, because it gives us an opportunity to make our brand visible and give it more reach. Additionally, the fact that rugby sevens is inclusive was something that was very important for us.
We’ve set out three objectives with this partnership. The first is reinforcing our intimacy with clients, second is the mobilisation of our people, and third is brand visibility. We really think that the format of the tournaments – taking place over two or three days – is very well suited to client intimacy. People are able to have conversations between the games, it’s very fun and there’s a very good atmosphere. It’s also geared towards the younger generations, and these are the people we actually target in our recruitment programme. So the fact that the format of rugby sevens is very much suited for younger generations was something that really counted for us.
Régis said the fact that the Sevens Series is both international and inclusive matched up with Capgemini's values
Do you think Capgemini could venture into other sports in the future, or is there a specific focus on rugby?
It’s not on the table yet, to be honest. We just partnered with World Rugby a few weeks ago. I’m conscious of the fact that we need to show the potential of this platform, but I’m sure we will learn as we work, so it will take some time to really leverage sports to the maximum.
How will you be bringing your own expertise to the partnership?
All of what we do is very much in the domain of innovation, so it was meaningful for us – and this quickly came up in our discussions with World Rugby – to allow the sport to benefit from our expertise in both data analysis and big data management, but also in terms of what we call in business ‘the consumer experience’. But when we apply that concept to rugby sevens, we are going to be thinking about the fan experience. These are things that we provide our clients with on a daily basis, and it was meaningful for us to apply this expertise to the domain of rugby.
We also used to sponsor two rugby clubs in France, but it was important for us to find a partnership that was closer to the scale of our company today. When we were looking at the options, the Sevens Series quickly emerged as the option we wanted to pursue.
So we are dealing with data from World Rugby about match performance, and what we want to do with that is improve the experience of the fans wherever they come from. There are some who know the sport really well, but there are others who have only just discovered it, so we want to give them a more intensive experience of rugby sevens, which is a very fast-moving sport. So we want to be able to provide an explanation of what happens on the pitch, including insights about how fast things are happening and how the players are putting together passages of play.
So it’s a work in progress, really. This is a very fast-growing sport for World Rugby, particularly since it became an Olympic sport, so I think they have an interest in reaching a wider audience. Therefore, the better the experience can be, the better chance they have of reaching that wider audience.
You also said that you will augment the tournament experience for fans on television and social. How do you plan on doing that?
One example of how we will do that is through some insight being projected onto the viewer’s screen that has been drawn from our analysis of the data. So we ultimately want to enrich the experience of people in front of their screens, whether that’s on their mobile phone inside the stadium or at home on their TV screen.
Capgemini has promised to enhance the fan experience for current and future spectators at World Rugby Sevens Series events
Is the ultimate goal to draw those fans that are engaging on digital platforms to the tournaments?
I would say that for us, as a B2B company, entering stadiums and having our brand exposed in a very live way is important. We want to apply our expertise to rugby and expose our product to the fans, because they could be people we might target to hire, or potential clients who would be meaningful for us to engage with in their business life.
How do you plan on activating the partnership locally at World Rugby Sevens Series events?
Locally, we will be able to welcome clients to allow them to discover the sport, but we will also be able to offer a nice day for clients who are already fans of the sport. We are also going to leverage this partnership in our recruitment programme, so we will highlight it whenever we are present in universities and colleges, because I think that our brand will be lifted from the dynamism of rugby sevens.
Why is it important for sports organisations like World Rugby to use their data efficiently to drive fan engagement?
Rugby is similar to a product at the end of the day, so expanding your audience by giving them some additional interesting and insightful experiences is one way to make them more engaged with the sport.