USA Rugby (USAR) is following a new strategic roadmap as it seeks to find a seat at the table in the crowded US sports marketplace.
Like most companies, sports organizations face a rapidly evolving marketplace. Changing consumer behaviors, increasingly fragmented audiences and a digital-first mindset among fans are forcing them to rethink how to approach their traditional audiences and expand into new markets.
Determined to establish the sport’s identity in this new era, USA Rugby (USAR) set out to address those challenges. While it has long been one of the major sports in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and other countries, rugby has struggled to gain a following in the US where its popularity trails mainstream sports, such as football, basketball, baseball, hockey and even soccer.
Yet, the sport has developed a strong core of fans and participants. These include a growing community of rugby clubs at US colleges, who enjoy its athleticism and camaraderie. The sport has also seen increasing participation by women, buoyed by the success of the USAR’s seven team.
Seeking to position itself for the future, USA Rugby’s leadership team began work on addressing three key areas:
- Defining USAR’s brand promise framework, which encompasses purpose, vision, values and mission.
- Building a 10-year strategic growth framework, focusing on a sustainable operating model, growth of the game, fan base activation, performance and talent, and diversity and inclusiveness.
- Embarking on a digital transformation initiative to help USAR deepen its engagement with rugby fans in the US.
Over the course of three months, more than 30 USAR stakeholders were interviewed, from board members to athletes. In addition, research and benchmarking of other sports organizations was conducted. “When EY professionals bought all that feedback in and mapped it based on their current priorities, close to 200 potential initiatives were created. EY professionals narrowed that list down to 55, which are being built into the current plan,” says Angus Roxburgh, EY Global Lead - Digital Sporting Experiences.
“Rugby fans are very passionate, and they are not shy about expressing their opinion. That’s one of our strengths as an organization, our people love the sport and will offer their ideas on what we can do to move forward,” adds Mark Griffin, USAR Commercial Director.
With so many ideas surfaced, the challenge for USAR was how to take those raw ideas to fine tune their vision and mission statement and develop a roadmap for the future.