LONDON: Marketers may have to rethink some preconceived notions of rugby fans, especially in a World Cup year when women – and especially mothers – show a much greater interest in the sport, new research has shown.

Digital advertising platform Exponential analysed online content consumed through 3.2m cookies between December 2014 and June 2015 to reveal how rugby's UK fan base changes when a World Cup is imminent.

"In the lead-up to the World Cup, the rugby audience becomes more diluted as the wider sports community jumps on board to join in with the excitement," said Doug Conely, Exponential's chief strategy officer.

"The 'bandwagon' fan is female and affluent and their non-rugby interests provide an excellent opportunity for rugby marketers to start a long-term conversation," he added.

For instance, 2015 rugby fans were found to be 81% more likely than their 2014 counterparts to shop for children's toys, 74% more likely to research beef recipes and 63% more likely to be looking at kitchens.

Conely observed that rugby clubs were unlikely to have considered advertising in media related to recipes, kitchens or toys, "but these could provide an excellent ROI, particularly where there are less-competing brands and media costs could be lower".

Aside from any bandwagon effect, rugby's fan base is already more female-oriented than, say, football, and so more interested in female-related topics.

Thus, the analysis found that rugby fans were 71% more likely to be into knitting than football fans and 45% more interested in make-up and hairstyling. Rugby fans were also 41% more likely to research cake recipes.

Rugby fans also showed a greater interest in British brands, being 133% more likely than football fans to be interested in Rolls Royce, for example, and 56% more into Vauxhall cars.

Conely remarked on the irony of Vauxhall being a long-term sponsor of the English football team.

"It suggests Vauxhall should consider getting involved in rugby sponsorship as it would have a bigger and more efficient impact – particularly as the cost of involvement is likely to be much lower than in football," he said.

Data sourced from Exponential; additional content by Warc staff