After a decade-long absence, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series made a stunning return to Singapore last year. The two-day HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens (SG7s) marks the only Southeast Asian stop in the 10-city tournament, so when this year’s event came around in April, Rugby Singapore, the commercial and events arm of the Singapore Rugby Union, worked closely with stakeholders and agency partners to carve out its own unique place in the series.
International sporting events can be an incredibly effective destination marketing tool—just look at how the Singapore Tourism Board has transformed the F1 night race into a three-day mega festival. The key, of course, is to create a brand that appeals to a mass audience, not just die-hard sports fans.
This was the goal of Selene Chin, managing director of Pico Pixel, when Pico was enlisted as the principle event management agency for the Singapore Rugby Sevens 2017.
“Though Pico had managed last year’s SG7s, the 2017 edition was different, with greater emphasis placed on building the event in terms of branding, anticipation, and extending appeal for the whole family,” she says.
“Singapore is also very close to Hong Kong, where the Rugby Sevens is well known as a place to party. So we wanted to appropriate the brand for a Singapore audience with a family-friendly focus—and create a unique identity from other events around the world.”
An interactive social media campaign was key here, and Chin’s team launched an extensive campaign in October last year.
Chin explains: “The team created an active, multifaceted online presence encompassing ticketing from a purpose-built website, and specially generated content for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that included a mix of interviews, regular updates, videos, contests and ticket promotions.”
Along with Pico, Rugby Singapore worked with commercial agency, ESG, and Australia-based Big Events Group (BEG), to secure sponsorship and engage brands and audiences during the event.
Adopting a colourful ‘Rock, Ruck and Rumble’ theme, this year’s event integrated karaoke in between matches.
In a first for sporting events in Singapore, a social media poll decided the top 10 songs to be played in the stadium, while spectators were encouraged to sing along and footage of the crowd was broadcast live on the stadium’s big screen.
To keep the good times rolling—and expand the footprint of the event—after the day’s play a free shuttle service was provided to Clarke Quay, the official after-party precinct, where several bars, restaurants and nightspots took part in the three-night Music After 7s festival with DJ performances and live music. While open to the public, SG7s punters qualified for extra privileges and discounts.
This year’s event featured an expanded ‘fun zone’ that stretched along the 100 Plus Promenade, which encircles the stadium. The newly integrated free zone featured food stalls, a beer garden and activities such as face-painting. Major sponsors, including Harley-Davidson Singapore, Fiji Airways and Volvo, also had colourful booths and a series of branded activations in and around the area.
Pico helped activate local sponsors like energy drink 100 Plus, which hosted a Rugby Challenge Circuit encouraging visitors to catch, throw and kick ‘like a pro’ at three branded stations.
While photo walls, photo booths and branded selfie opportunities filled the venue, major giveaways resonated well with the audience. Fiji Airways and Volvo teamed up for a ‘Guess and Win’ contest, where rugby fans guessed the number of DHL boxes inside a Volvo XC60 luxury SUV and shared a photo online for a chance to win a round trip to Fiji.
And Harley-Davidson held a lucky draw competition that included a Harley-Davidson roadster with custom SG7s paintwork. A convoy of Harley-Davidsons also performed a parade with flags of the 16 teams participating in the SG7s.
To further extend the lifespan of the event and better engage attendees, a number of local sporting events were built into the 2017 programme.
“As the only Southeast Asia country to host a leg of the World Sevens Series, it’s important to engage our regional neighbours, so the Southeast Asian Sevens is played on the same weekend,” says Michael Wong, Rugby Singapore’s general manager. “This allows rugby fans from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore to cheer for their local heroes, in addition to watching the world’s best players.
“This year we also introduced an open ‘Midnight 7s’ tournament at Yio Chu Kang [Stadium] on the eve of the main event. This attracted more than 500 players and supporters who enjoyed rugby, music and food under the stars.
“Punters can expect more engaging ancillary activities in the lead-up to the SG7s in 2018.”