Conference by Vincent Gaillard, crisis management by the EPCR in times of Covid-19

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The MSc & MBA students of INSEEC Bordeaux had the opportunity to participate in the Rugby Exceptional conference on the theme: “Crisis management in times of Covid-19 & the marketing strategy considered by theEPCR “. Vincent Gaillard, Managing Director of the European Professional Club Rugby was the guest of honor at this conference. He is also an alumnus of the BBA INSEEC and today is the sponsor of the 2019 MSc 2 class of the Sport division

The European Professional Club Rugby or EPCR is the governing body and organizer of the 2 biggest European interclub rugby competitions: the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Like most of the entities in the world, it too is now suffering the consequences of this crisis. Marketing strategies, partnership management, crisis communication, all the means are put in place in order to be able to compensate as well as possible for the slowdown or even the total stop of the activity linked to rugby.

A look back at this videoconference led by Thierry Lauret, Director of the Sports Marketing & Management programs.

In such a context, what is the EPCR Marketing Strategy?

” Marketing right now is all about crisis management. “

The EPCR is currently considering new broadcast formats to generate more interest from sponsors.

During this crisis, the financial partners would have had every right to withdraw or to demand financial compensation for the slowdown in activity.  Fortunately for EPCR, this was not the case for Heineken. Indeed, Heineken has been one of its privileged partners for more than 25 years, a rather exceptional length of time in the rugby world. The program ” The 25 memorable years of the European Cup ” was created at on the occasion of this anniversary.

Finally, the challenges of this crisis lie mainly in the performance of digital platforms (social networks but not only), in the creation of content and in the diversification of their TV model. Indeed, several strategic choices are available to them: stay on a traditional TV model or move towards new entrants like Amazon and Facebook.

These strategies aim to keep the European Rugby Cup alive beyond the 9 weeks it represents.

What has been the direct impact of Covid-19 in the rugby ecosystem?

The first consequence is the sudden stop of revenues from ticketing, sponsoring and subscriptions to sports channels.

All countries are affected by this crisis. In Europe, players’ lifestyles will be reduced as well as their salaries.

Some clubs may have to disappear (e.g., the Toulouse Club). Vincent Gaillard confirmed that the situation was serious. In addition, this drop in revenue is attracting new players such as investment funds. By taking over the management of certain clubs, one can fear that they will favour a short-term financial vision. The International Rugby Federation, World Rugby,  assists in the development of amateur rugby and is the primary supporter of the activity in general. It has a fundamental role in making the system work. If investment funds take up too much space, the Federation will see its decision-making power diminish, particularly in terms of the type and amount of investments to be made. This may be of concern as the first budget to be negatively impacted is likely to be the health budget for rugby players.

What are today the priorities of the EPCR ?

The priority of the EPCR is to concentrate its means and efforts in the health of the players, and therefore by investing in independent cameras and doctors.

As for the environmental aspect, it comes in a second time. The EPCR will intensify its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.

Finally, the social and societal aspect is also one of the priorities of the EPCR with, in particular, the desire to continue to create jobs.

Is the Rugby season still on?  

The EPCR  wants to finish the season, that is to say to ensure the quarter, half and final.

For Vincent, the ideal would be to organize them with the public although this is unlikely. It could be quite possible to play the games in a closed room.  If the games were played under these conditions, the financial impact would not be very significant. Indeed, the loss linked to ticketing is estimated at 5 million euros, much less than the loss linked to TV rights. All their attention is therefore focused on their TV broadcasters because that’s where the bulk of their revenue lies.

Finally Vincent Gaillard declared the advent of a new competition which will be called “”The World Cup of Clubs”” which will take place every 4 years and will be held over 4 or 5 weeks. Currently discussions are focused on the date of this European Championship, its format and business model.”

Updated 24 February 2022