MasterCard Inc., the second-largest U.S. payments network, signed as the final main sponsor of next year’s Rugby World Cup, which organizers say will be the biggest-earning event in the history of the International Rugby Board.
MasterCard, which also backed the 2011 tournament in New Zealand, joins Emirates airline, logistics company DHL, carmaker Land Rover, French bank Societe Generale SA and brewer Heineken NV as worldwide partners of the event in England that starts in September 2015.
The tournament is likely to make a profit “in excess of 200 million pounds” ($336 million), on revenue of between $800 million and $900 million, IRB Chief Executive Officer Brett Gosper said in an interview in London today.
He added that the IRB is confident of selling out a record 2.3 million tickets, including all its corporate hospitality packages. Broadcasting rights have been sold to 207 markets, and will reach a cumulative audience of 4.2 billion worldwide. Some 400,000 rugby fans are expected to travel to the U.K. next year, organizers say.
The 2011 tournament, won by the All Blacks on home soil, attracted about 133,000 visitors from more than 100 countries to New Zealand and a cumulative global television audience of 3.9 billion, organizers said at the time.
Hosting the World Cup in England has boosted sponsorship income by 40 percent from 2011, Gosper said.
Rugby is attractive for global sponsors such as MasterCard -- which also signed New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter as a brand ambassador today -- because it attracts the same “high-spending fan base,” such as tennis and golf, Gosper said.
“There are values associated with the sport of rugby, such as good discipline, good player behavior, the spectator atmosphere is special,” Gosper said. “Plus, there is very little scandal.”
Global interest in the sport of rugby is also on the increase partly after the International Olympic Committee included Rugby Sevens in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Gosper said.
The IRB’s surplus will be about 150 million pounds, with the remaining 50 million pounds being generated in ticket sales by the local host organization. The IRB surplus will be put back into the sport, Gosper said.
“Rugby is a real family game,” Rose Beaumont, a spokeswoman for MasterCard, said in an interview. Rugby’s strong presence in the British Commonwealth as well as its growing popularity in countries such as the U.S., Romania, the Czech Republic and Georgia make it an attractive partner for the company, she added.
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