World Rugby and the IMG agency have announced that the 2019 Rugby World Cup is set to break records for the tournament’s licensing programme, as the event prepares to commence in Japan tomorrow (Friday).
The first World Cup to be held in Asia will run through to November 2, with IMG having landed the contract to manage the global licensing and merchandising rights for the 2019 and 2023 competitions, along with a number of World Rugby’s other major tournaments, back in October 2017.
With IMG signing more than 45 local and international licensees for the 2019 World Cup, pre-tournament sales of the official online store have already outperformed those of the 2015 tournament’s in England by over 50 per cent.
The hundreds of official products – ranging from merchandise and apparel to unique lifestyle and traditional Japanese items – are also available in more than 70 stores run by IMG-appointed official on-site retailer Legends International, including a 1,000sqm megastore in the centre of Tokyo.
Products are being sold in more than 75 countries worldwide, with best-sellers including national team jerseys and caps, fan apparel, face towels, keyrings and pin badges. In apparel, Canterbury serves as the tournament’s branded sports outfitter. In addition to the core Canterbury range and co-branded national team jerseys, consumers are also offered the likes of branded and non-branded shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, rain ponchos, footwear and fashion accessories.
The available merchandise assortment also features a diverse range of collectibles and lifestyle goods that seek to reflect the unique culture of 2019’s host country, including traditional Japanese Jimbaori coats and KIMEKOJI dolls, as well as jewellery and toys featuring the tournament’s official mascot. Food licensing has been another distinctive component of the local offering with branded ice cream, confectionary, cookies, rice crackers and Shumai dumplings.
IMG president of licensing, Bruno Maglione, said: “Our objective from the start was to build a programme that celebrates the first Asian host country edition of this global tournament while also capitalising on the overall growth of the sport itself in traditional rugby markets and newer ones.
“Our Japan team and international offices have worked together to develop an extensive suite of products that captures the uniqueness of the host country, as well as providing typical sports merchandise for rugby’s growing legions of fans traveling or watching from their homes around the world.”
The six-week tournament is expected to draw a record 400,000 international visitors to Japan and will be the most digitally-engaged rugby event ever. World Rugby this week revealed that more than 96 per cent of tickets have been sold ahead of kick off.
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper added: “Rugby World Cup 2019 will be a very special and global celebration of rugby and, these incredible sales demonstrate that it will not just be big in Japan, but is capturing the imagination of fans and new audiences globally.”
To read an in-depth feature on the Rugby World Cup licensing programme, including an interview with Mickael Andreo, vice-president, licensing at IMG, click here.