With the British and Irish Lions 2013 tour to Australia done and dusted, Rugby 24/7 has spoken with Rhino CEO Reg Clark to get an insight into the tour from the sponsors point of view.

R24/7 - When did Rhino first begin working with the Lions, and what were the initial reasons that attracted Rhino to begin their partnership with the Lions?

RC - We became both Official Supplier of scrummaging machines, contact and training equipment and also Official Ball Supplier for the 2009 tour to South Africa. We consider ourselves the world's leading supplier in the former category and an ambitious up-and-coming brand in the latter and saw the Lions as the perfect vehicle to confirm and consolidate our ambitions in both categories.

R24/7 - Have these initial reasons / objectives of working with the Lions changed over the years? What are the objectives or goals now?

RC - We continued in both roles for the 2013 tour to Australia and were delighted that the objectives and the reasons for doing so in 2009 were the same and with a similarly successful outcome.

R24/7 - How does Rhino measure the success and R.O.I. of such sponsorship agreements? Is it simply volume of sales or are there other factors that are considered?

RC - We aim to recoup some of the costs of the sets of training equipment in the UK and on tour by resale at favourable rates to schools and other institutions and aim to make a profit on Official Ball sales, but overall we would measure the success of the contracts on marketing benefits and not just ROI. The Lions is our most important relationship in the world of rugby and very much our 'window to the world of rugby' as reflected in our marketing materials.

R24/7 Is the sponsorship of the Lions an attempt to increase brand awareness within the UK market, or are Rhino looking for expansion in other markets e.g. the Far East, through the provision of the match ball for the unique Hong Kong Test match?

RC - The global TV viewing figures for the Lions now make this a global marketing / awareness exercise. The Hong Kong game in particular for which we supplied both the match ball and the Barbarians teamwear and apparel was a big day for the Rhino brand not only in Asia but also globally, and we are also pleased to spread brand awareness through the tour in Australia.

R24/7 What were the activation plans for the sponsorship of the 2013 Lions Tour? Have these differed from previous Tour's?

RC - The Lions are particularly good at fostering a sense of a 'sponsor family' and activation plans seem to flow naturally from their own timetable of events; there is a great tradition of cross fertilisation between the sponsors – examples being that we co-operated closely with HSBC on the donation of two full sets of training equipment to schools in both Hong Kong and Sydney and also the fact that we make Lions commemorative balls branded for most of the other sponsors.

R24/7 - What are the different logistical challenges faced in sponsoring, and then activating, a unique Tour such as the Lions, as opposed to other partnerships that Rhino have in place?

RC - Whilst we do end up supplying training equipment to our Official Supplier partners in tournaments such as the Rugby World Cup in different parts of the world, the Lions is particularly challenging in terms of supply for example this time of a full set of training equipment for the training camps in Cardiff, Dublin and London before the tour, in Hong Kong and in various parts of Australia. The Lions logistic team plan meticulously ahead of the trip however, which eases the task greatly.

R24/7 - Do you feel the ever-increasing commercialisation of the British and Irish Lions Tour has had a negative impact on the traditions, culture and ethos of the Lions?

RC - Not on the last two tours in which we were involved. Managers like Gerald Davies and Andy Irvine and coaches like Ian McGeechan and Warren Gatland are massively steeped in and / or aware of the traditions, culture and ethos of the Lions and as long as future tours are in similar hands the institution should continue to flourish – particularly on the back of a winning tour.

R24/7 - How pleasing was it to see a strong Lions scrum in the final Test prove so pivotal in the team winning the series, considering the team have been using the Rhino Dictator Scrum machine in training throughout the Tour?

RC - This was the absolute icing on the cake for Rhino. Our staff in Sydney for the occasion were particularly pleased to be able to meet Graham Rowntree after the final test to congratulate him on what was a truly epic scrummaging performance. Rhino has a close relationship with Adam Jones who confirmed his position as the world's leading tight head and Alex Corbisiero was an absolute sensation. All credit to the referee also in that game for giving the Lions the deserved benefit of their superiority in this department – it keeps fully contested scrummaging at the core of the union game at a time when it has been attracting controversy.  ALL CREDIT, HOWEVER, ABOVE ALL OF COURSE GOES TO THE RHINO DICTATOR SCRUM MACHINE!

Published in Sponsorship