LONDON: Marketers seeking to reach rugby fans cannot ignore mobile as research shows they are very likely to be using their smartphones when watching a game, whether in a stadium or an armchair at home.

A study by RadiumOne – the Rugby Fans & Technology Survey – discovered that 52% of rugby fans engage with their phone when viewing at home or in the pub and 44% do so when actually at a game, Digital Marketing reported.

The findings are timely, with the Six Nations tournament already under way and the Rugby World Cup taking place in England in the autumn.

The latter competition will see a surge in online activity by fans: 27% of those surveyed anticipate increasing their online sharing activity during the tournament, while 34% expect a sharp increase in their consumption of rugby content.

As it is, some 21% of rugby fans chat via instant messenger while watching games, and 19% comment using social media channels.

Almost half (48%) share rugby-related content online, while 60% consume content, a figure that rises to 78% among 16-to-34 year old fans.

"Technology has fundamentally changed the way fans and brands engage with rugby," said Rupert Staines, managing director of Europe at RadiumOne.

"Marketers need to better understand the nuanced behaviours of today's rugby fans so they can build a tailored conversation on the relevant device."

He added that the Rugby World Cup "will be a veritable goldmine for those relevant brands who understand the technology routines and associated data of today's connected rugby fan".

Just how much technology has altered things can be seen in the current campaign of O2, the sponsor of the England team.

"Our strategy has changed from awareness to awareness and engagement," Gareth Griffiths, head of sports sponsorship at O2 told Marketing Week.

"We've gone from pies and pints to digital and technology," he added, in a reference to the brand's campaign during the last Rugby World Cup in 2011, when it delivered the said pies and pints to people's homes on match days as a way of encouraging them to support England.

Now it is offering augmented reality options to enable people to feel what it's like to train with the team, while a #WearTheRose hashtag will give fans the chance to win prizes on match days.

Data sourced from Digital Marketing Magazine, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff