LONDON: Logistics firm DHL is aiming to use its sponsorship of next month's Rugby World Cup to shift its image away from that of a functional B2B operation towards a more consumer-oriented one.
"It's about emotionalising our brand," Fiona Taag, global sponsorship manager, explained to Marketing. "We're pretty much a household name – now we want to tell DHL's story beyond showcasing our logo."
To that end it has put up a reported £6.5m to become a headline sponsor alongside more familiar sporting sponsorship names such as beer brand Heineken, car marque Land Rover, airline Emirates and financial businesses MasterCard and Société Générale.
"We have changed from being just B2B to being much more consumer-facing," said Taag.
"That's largely been driven by an e-commerce world, with many people buying online and needing products shipped," she added. "We're more consumer-facing than we ever were."
DHL's sponsorship will include the non-consumer facing and prosaic, if vital, task of moving team equipment between stadia.
But the brand has also devised various emotional activities, from having a child deliver the match ball during the opening game to recruiting ex-Welsh international Adam Jones to give away tickets to fans as part of its Scrum Share campaign.
Another well-known player will be disguised as "DHL Tackleman" and will be commenting on Twitter and write regular blogs.
Taag highlighted three goals DHL hoped to achieve, including: promoting its logistics operation through content, but not in an "overly commercial way"; boosting employee engagement; and increasing brand consideration.
"We're more about opening people up to the idea of working with DHL, and we hope to be top-of-mind when it comes to choosing a courier," she said.
With other global sports, from football to cricket and most recently athletics, having been hit by various scandals, rugby is benefiting from a clean reputation that is proving attractive to brands.
"The opportunity is in the social side," according to Steve Martin, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.
"Rugby is played in a very good, respectful way," he said. "The values of rugby are very strong and, as a result, there's quite a positive response in the sponsorship market."
Data sourced from Marketing; additional content by Warc staff