League of their own: The countdown to RLWC 2021

With the clock having just passed the year to go mark on the Rugby League World Cup 2021, Source chats to Riverside Brands about the licensing opportunity off the pitch.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 is Riverside Brands first foray into the world of sports licensing and its founder, Ashley Holman, is clear as to why: “It has been an ambition of ours from inception to work across a multitude of licensing areas, sports being very much a key one.”

Riverside was introduced to the tournament and team behind it back in December last year and has not looked back.

“Once we heard their vision and plans, we knew we wanted to be involved particularly as it will be the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup ever, as well as the most inclusive with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments all taking place at the same time,” says Ashley.

The opportunity is clear. Rugby League fans, of which there are over 14 million in the UK, are also dedicated followers so there will be a demand for merchandise surrounding the tournament.

To this end, Riverside is currently busy working on the plans including style guides, retail point of sale and the overarching strategy.

There are 21 unique nations taking part in the tournament, with 150 million due to watch around the world.
There are 21 unique nations taking part in the tournament, with 150 million due to watch around the world.

Ashley explains: “Everything is looking really strong and it will cater for the core Rugby League fan, as well as those followers who will support it due to the occasion of a World Cup being held here in England. The style guide is being developed through these two strands so we are able to cater for both fully.”

The Rugby League World Cup is a natural fit with categories such as apparel, nightwear, homewares, bedding, accessories, footwear, bags and stationery, but also some more tournament specific commemorative, collectable and memorabilia based opportunities.

Retail wise, some of the more specific tournament-based merchandise will sit within the 21 host venues, sports retailers and online, whereas with others Riverside is aiming to partner with leading mass market retailers to bring the tournament to as wide a consumer base as possible.

Of course, the tournament extends beyond the host nation and, tapping into this, Riverside has plans to build around its global representation. “With the tournament taking place in England and with there being such a large and loyal following of the sport here, there will naturally be a huge opportunity ‘at home’ in England,” says Ashley.

In addition, there are 21 unique nations taking part in the tournament and 150 million viewers are set to watch it around the world, including via the BBC which will show every one of the 61 matches live in the UK.

“We know places like Australia and New Zealand have very large Rugby League fan bases, and we also have multiple teams making their first appearance also such as Brazil, Jamaica and Norway, so there are a range of great opportunities for us,” Ashley concludes.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2020 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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