Muted enthusiasm for Rugby World Cup 2023 – but why?
September 29th, 2023, Stephan Shakespeare

Muted enthusiasm for Rugby World Cup 2023 – but why?

The Rugby World Cup 2023 is underway and it’s had no shortage of drama, with the opening weekend alone seeing a tense encounter between Wales and Fiji, a contentious red card, and much more.

But data from YouGov SportsIndex suggests that this year’s tournament is not generating the same levels of excitement as previous contests. If we look at Word of Mouth measures, which ask if the public have spoken about a sporting event with friends or family, we can see that the Rugby World Cup’s scores went from 6.9 to 12.9 (+6.0) in the 30 days before the tournament began (20 August – 18 September 2015). 2019 performed similarly, with scores rising from 7.1 to 13.5 (+6.4).

Over the same 30-day period (10 August – 8 September), the buildup to the 2023 tournament has seen the World Cup’s scores rise from 3.5 to 9.1 (+5.6): a similar improvement, but from a lower base, indicating that the competition is sparking less conversation than previous tournaments.

Similarly, Buzz scores (which measure whether people have heard anything positive or negative about a sporting event) doubled in 2015 from 6.9 to 14.0 (+7.1) in the lead-up to the World Cup, and 2019 saw a similar improvement from 8.3 to 14.0 (+5.7). But for 2023, these measures have only risen from 3.3 to 6.3 (+3.0).

It’s possible that the marketing and advertising for this year’s Rugby World Cup just isn’t landing. Our data shows that for the 2015 tournament, Ad Awareness doubled from 9.8 to 20.5 in the 30 days before it began (+10.7), while 2019 saw scores rise from 6.1 to 17.5 (+11.4). This year’s Rugby World Cup has only seen Ad Awareness rise from 2.8 to 10.4 (+7.6) over the same period. Danny Rogers in The i also offers the possibility that the World Cup’s muted reception this year might be due to an unfancied England team or a “malaise” around “brand rugby”.

Whatever the reasons, the 2023 Rugby World Cup could be sparking more conversation and more interest among the public – after all, it has done so in the past. The tournament’s organisers may be hoping that it concludes with rather more fanfare than it began with.