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An insight into the successful Lions rugby brand

By Frank Quinn
THE recent Lions tour certainly brightened the weeks following the end of the northern hemisphere rugby season and the brand benefited beyond its wildest dreams.
So, what exactly is this tour, what cash does it generate, who are the Lions and who is actually running it? In this interesting insight, rugby correspondent FRANK QUINN gives his view:
Frank writes:
THE Lions is an international rugby tour undertaken by the best players of four nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) to the southern hemisphere in the valley period between Rugby World Cups and it avoids clashes with the Olympics and soccer competitions.
It is a high-level business venture and the total cost of sending out a Lions tour is estimated at approximately €15 million. The recent tour saw the Lions’ commercial team set out a target to generate an estimated €45 million and each of the home nations will benefit from a distribution of the overall profits.
If information to hand proves accurate, each of the home nations should receive €82,400 per player who travel, which in Ireland’s case would mean eleven players for a total of €906,400
Every player who finishes the tour will receive €82,400 each plus a bonus if they win of €11,777. (The draw will probably yield a bonus of €6,000).
In four years time, the next tour could see players receive €100,000 with inflation, under the current schedule, for six weeks’ work.
There are no costs available for the management, coaching and medical/ physio staff.
The Lions Tour is operated by British Lions Designated Activity Company, which is owned by the four home unions (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland).
British Lions Limited does not retain any profits; the surplus generated is directed back into the funding and development of the sport via the four home unions, which are the shareholders of the British Lions Limited.
According to the report the host nation benefits from the tour every 12 years, it is worthwhile and very lucrative and continues to attract large numbers of visiting rugby fans. All three SANZAR nations budget for it and it is an essential part of their financial planning. Hence the north and south hemispheres support the project
This information was included in a sport feature in the Sunday Independent and was credited to Kelli Slattery, Managing Director of Teneo Sport, Ireland’s leading sponsorship consultancy agency and member of the Teneo PSG Group. This group has many of the major clients who are sponsors of the Lions tour and has had close links with the IRFU for many years.
According to the report there was no profitable tour until 1991 and the serious profits kicked in eight years ago with the South African tour. The three Sanzar nations (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) play host to the Lions in turn.
The 2013 tour yielded £40m to Australia, the 2005 tour to New Zealand was worth $21.5m NZ Dollars (£13M) and wiped out current debt at the time for both Unions.
The Lions six principal Partners this year were Standard Life Investments, emblazoned on front of jersey; Canterbury, QBE, Land Rover, Quantas and EY
Four Sponsors: Pink, Mud House, Gillette and Robert Wallace.
One regional Sponsor, Doom Bar.
Five Suppliers: Vivomed, Rhino, Whyte & McKay, PBS and Slingsby.
One media partner: The Telegraph.
This is a very cluttered sponsorship area in which to operate and it can be hard to get the breakthrough – to get the payback for sponsoring. Each of the sponsors was targeting their own specific market in relation to NewZealand, the TV coverage and the home target market.
On a prompted awareness-conducted research amongst 400 sports fans the recognition of the Lions brands scored well. Standard life was 84%, Land Rover was 66%, Gillette was 44%, Quantas a bit less at 35% and EY scored 26%.
AIG are the jersey sponsor for New Zealand and scored heavily with 88% recognition. Of course Broadcaster Sky scored heavily with Irish fans, as the rights holder, and its non-stop promotion of the tour paid off for them.
In conclusion, THE LIONS is a major brand.
It is estimated that 2017 was a very successful tour for all concerned and a very lucrative one. The interest levels were huge, the sponsorship paid off and with this success it looks as if the Lions tour brand is here to stay.
It is too big to drop . . . so why should that be even considered?
As there are four years to plan for the next one some minor adjustments can be made and the two most debated change are a reduction in the number of games in the playing schedule and the timing of the tour.

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