European Cups (rugby): "Sponsorship revenues on the rise, TV rights much higher" (V. Gaillard, EPCR)
"While sponsorship revenues are indeed on the rise, those from TV broadcasting rights for the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup around the world are much higher, by a ratio of approximately 1 to 5," said Vincent Gaillard CEO of EPCR to News Tank Football on 07/01/2020, ahead of the Round 5 of the 2019-20 European rugby cups that was played from 10 to 12/01/2020.
Regarding the logic of having one free and one paid broadcaster for each territory, "it is a question of finding the right balance between revenues, necessary for our stakeholders and for the development of rugby at a national level, and the accessibility of our competitions, necessary in the long term for our reputation and the viability of our commercial programme. We are particularly pleased with this balance," continued the head of European Professional Club Rugby.
"The choice of Marseille (FRA) and the Orange Vélodrome (as the host site for both of the 2020 European Cup finals) was simply based on the quality of their application, and indeed with the aim of offering new experiences to our fans and meeting new fans in new territories," added Vincent Gaillard, who answered questions posed by News Tank Football.
Heineken (beer), The Financial Times (media) and Kappa (equipment manufacturer) have recently partnered with EPCR. Is sponsorship your main source of revenue?
While sponsorship revenues are indeed on the rise, those from TV broadcasting rights for the Champions Cupand Challenge Cup around the world are much higher, by a ratio of approximately 1 to 5. Having said that, the contribution of our various partners, notably Heineken and Tissot, is not only financial. Their contribution in terms of activations and publicity is considerable and beneficial to the reputation of our competitions on an international level.
What are your objectives in terms of sponsorship? Would you like to have less in order to give them more visibility?
Our main objective is to establish partnerships with reputable companies and brands that are actively involved in our international competitions, according to their business sector and strategic objectives. In this respect, our relationship with Heineken - which has been maintained for almost 25 years, a unique case of which we are very proud - is particularly telling. However, we have also developed a national offer, for brands whose marketing activity is limited to France or Great Britain for example, offering very significant activation opportunities in a given territory. We are constantly striving to create added value and invest in our offer to ensure that it remains relevant.
How do you promote the Heineken brand in France despite the Loi Évin?
This is obviously a challenge, because everyone's concern is to ensure that the law is respected. However, the opportunities available to Heineken France around the Champions Cup remain important, especially in terms of hospitality and activations through sales outlets. It also seems to me that, in the minds of the French public, the Heineken brand remains very widely and spontaneously associated with our flagship competition.
What about the possibility of finding a title partner for the Challenge Cup? Doesn't the title "Heineken Champions Cup" prevent the product from being called the "Champions Cup"?
As far as the Challenge Cup is concerned, we are indeed looking for a title partner, in a very positive context of increasing stadium attendance and TV audiences. As far as our flagship competition is concerned, we believe that the fact that the Champions Cup brand is associated with a brand as prestigious and consistent with the universe of our sport as Heineken, only reinforces its attractiveness.
In your TV rights agreements for the 2018-2022 cycle, you often have a free-TV and pay-TV operator for each territory. What is your reasoning behind this?
It is a question of finding the right balance between revenues, necessary for our stakeholders and for the development of rugby at a national level, and the accessibility of our competitions, necessary in the long term for our reputation and the viability of our commercial programme. We are particularly pleased with this balance, especially in France, the UK and Ireland. This strategy is clearly countercurrent to what can be done in football for example, but it seems to us to be the right one both for the clubs involved and for the general public.
How do you try to reach territories outside Europe (particularly where TV rights agreements could not be signed)? Is OTT then the solution?
We already cover the world's major countries through numerous agreements in North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and by effectively blending traditional linear broadcasters (such as NBC in the USA or SuperSport in South Africa) with OTTplatforms (such as DAZN in Japan, Canada or Germany or Rugby Pass in part of Oceania).
The EPCR announced a five-year record of 210,765 spectators for Round 3 of the 2019-20 European Cups. How do you explain this surge in attendance?
After a somewhat laborious transition from the "H Cup" to the Heineken Champions Cup, changes in format and governance, we are indeed seeing that the excitement for our competitions is stronger than ever. The main point of demarcation that we are trying to maintain is the intensity and quality of the game, the general selectivity making the participating teams have little room for error. We try to keep the level of rugby as high as possible, which of course is influenced by the formats chosen, the refereeing practised, etc.
The Orange Vélodrome in Marseille (FRA) will host the finals of both of the 2020 European Cups. What do you expect from this event? How is the choice of the site for the finals made and is it logical to award these matches to territories that are less enthusiastic about rugby?
We are expecting historic finals, in a mythical city and stadium! The choice of Marseille was simply based on the quality of their application, and indeed with the aim of offering new experiences to our fans and meeting new fans in new territories. More than 60,000 tickets have already been sold for the weekend, so I would advise those interested to come forward quickly: some French clubs currently have very good chances of going all the way, including in the Challenge Cup, given the current performances of RC Toulonnais and Union Bordeaux Bègles in particular.
A change in the format of the competitions has been suggested from 2022-23. What are your thoughts on this?
All the elements that would allow us to further improve the current formats are being studied, and our objective is to reach a conclusion very quickly. Improvement could be through an even tighter format, but not solely, and nothing has been decided yet. On the other hand, we have a majority preference for competitions over nine weekends, as is the case today.
Why did you move your headquarters from Neuchâtel (SUI) to Lausanne (SUI) in July 2018? Have you seen the benefits since then?
We are reaping very significant benefits, particularly in terms of logistics, thanks to our closer proximity to Geneva International Airport (SUI), and in terms of the environment and human resources, thanks to our presence in the "Olympic Capital", where we benefit from an ecosystem of sports management that is unique in the world, all in a particularly healthy and dynamic economic and social context.