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Growing a Fanbase Around Women’s Rugby

Ewan Turney

Ewan Turney

Marketing Director at England Rugby 

CONNECT CMO Ewan Turney, Marketing Director, England Rugby 

Ewan Turney, Marketing Director, England Rugby 

We were joined by Ewan Turney, Marketing Director at England Rugby for a fascinating chat growing a fanbase around women’s rugby.  

‘This is our busiest time of year with the Six Nations… back-to-back men and women’s’ games’.  This shows growth already, in that the women’s sport is already well into its’ expansion. 

The Red Roses 

‘The women’s England Rugby Team is a unique, very special brand’, explains Ewan. ‘’ The Red Roses, as they are now called, are so important to us both in terms of the team members themselves but also for the wider impact they’re having to get young girls into this amazing sport’.  He goes on to stress the importance of their team’s name, as it really helped to ensure that were a true entity and that they ‘held their own part of the team’. 

There is clearly a lot of affection and emotional weight linked to the Red Roses or the so-called ‘sport cult queens’ and Ewan’s passion for the women’s game shines through.  ‘They really are a fresh, vibrant, and modern team.  They are serious athletes- one of the world’s most successful sports teams.  The brand we are building reflects them both as individuals and as them coming together as well’. 

Rightly so, there is ever- increasing interest from fans old and new.  Ewan explains what key actions he has taken to build up that fan base so far. 

Visibility and Brand Awareness 

Ewan explains that visibility is naturally a huge stumbling block for the women’s game, so building this awareness and brand/ team presence really is crucial growing a fanbase around women’s rugby.  We have to be really diligent to make clear where, when and how fans can watch the game.  

‘The access that fans can have to the players is really important as it adds that personal element.  After the matches the women really go out there and spend time with their fans.  One fond moment is one of them holding a fans’ tiny baby and taking photos with her. It’s a true community. A family.’  

‘A fan is somebody who is emotionally connected to the product/team/celebrity…Ultimately, the way to do this well is through great storytelling.  What are the players’ back stories? How did these women become professional rugby players and what did they do before? How are they relatable and how can we really elevate their profiles?’ 

When asked how The Red Roses have gone about doing away with legacy issues from the men’s game, Ewan explains that they have simply used all opportunities to their advantage.  Especially in the early days, exposure from the men’s game gave a real boost.  As the sport grows, there are an increasing number of communities becoming involved with England Rugby, that have been brought into the fold directly through the women’s game.  

The Goal 

‘The goal is to fill Twickenham by 2025- for a sell-out women’s game.  That’s a capacity of 82,000 seats.  Four years ago, we had on average 2,000 fans per match and the weekend right before the first lockdown from Covid, we had 12,000 at Harlequins turn out for the Red Roses.  We are well on our way.  The trajectory is spot on, and we are really looking forward to it’. 

Ewan Turney, Marketing Director, England Rugby 

TOP TIP- ‘Get your stories out there.  Make sure they’re genuine and relatable too and connection will be driven’. 

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