Rugby is in rude health with attendances, viewers and profits soaring. As the sport’s biggest annual tournament – the Six Nations – kicks off Saturday, new research reveals the opportunity 'dark social' provides marketers to ride this wave and target rugby fans who are highly affluent consumers.

Each month around 7.7 million fans engage with rugby content online and nearly half of rugby fans share content, doing so 2.8 times a day, according to data-driven marketing technology business, RadiumOne. However, 78% of this sharing happens via dark social channels which can’t be measured via web analytics such as email, text and instant messaging – versus just 14% on Facebook and 6% on Twitter. During the tournament, 7.7 million clicks on 6 Nations content will happen in dark social compared to 2.1 million in public channels.

Craig Tuck, RadiumOne’s UK managing director, said: “Rugby fans are a marketing goldmine. Incomes are at least 20% higher than UK average, 71% are social grade AB and they’re more likely to respond to advertising across key sectors such as business, finance and automotive."

Rugby fans sharing content via dark social are six times more likely to engage with Six Nations advertising, which “proves how powerful it is for marketers because sharing this way carries more weight as its done on a 1-2-1 basis with family or close friends, rather than the ‘blanket’ approach on social networks. The likes of O2, IBM, MasterCard and Guinness have utilised dark social to great effect", Craig said.

Marketers can target people who share content in dark social via sharing tools such as URL link shorteners and sharing widgets that appear around online articles. People who share and receive content this way can subsequently be targeted with relevant ads across the web – whatever sites they visit.

“Brands need to start targeting sharing behaviour now as this week sees the level of 6 Nations content shared double,” said Tuck, who also pointed out that mobile is key, “Last year, 28% of 6 Nations content was shared on mobile but so far in 2017 its already 47%".

There are major differences around what Six Nations content is shared publicly versus in the dark. Fixtures/results dominate Dark Social sharing, accounting for 56%, followed by the tournament table (31%). However, the most popular content shared publicly is the TV/coverage schedule (42%) and team news (38%). “Understanding these differences can help marketers target fans with paid media more effectively,” said Tuck.


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

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