Munster Rugby: The Offline Irish Social Business Model But Can Munster Bring It Online?
What has this to do with Social Business? As a confirmed Munster supporter I will explain. In a survey undertaken by Pembroke Communication about the popularity of various Irish sports, rugby came third in popularity behind Soccer and GAA. Soccer getting just over 30% of the votes, the GAA getting 20.9% and Rugby 20.5%.
Why have we Irish taken to rugby in such a large numbers in the last fifteen years? What has drawn us to a sport that would have being referred to as a “garrison game”, a “foreign game” and an “elitist sport”? What has changed with either the Irish people or the sport that has led to this growth?
I am in my mid forties so I can remember when Rugby was played in Cork by the two fee paying schools, CBC and PBC plus four city clubs, Cons, Dolphin, Highfield and Sundays Well. The Well being the working mans club. This was replicated in Dublin and of course in Belfast, where rugby was perceived as a protestant pastime. Only in Limerick was the sport seen as an inclusive sport, where the “dogs on the road” played rugby.
Why has Rugby become so popular?
What has taken place in Ireland to explain the huge adjustments in the last fifteen years? Why is rugby so close to passing the GAA in the survey as the second most popular sport in Ireland?
Munster Rugby can claim to have led the revolution in the mid 90′s.
- Munster support has cross province appeal, due to the authenticity and values of the players.
- The failures in the Heineken Cup finals against Northampton and Leicester at the start of the new century, only helped to add to the Munster story. Rather than seen as failure, these two defeats helped to build the Munster profile within the Irish consciousness.
Which in turn led to the growth of their offline community. The two later wins in the same competition cemented their position as the top team Ireland had produced.
Munster also have a reputation of doing well against touring international sides, notably being the only Irish team ever to beat the All Blacks back in 1978. This of course adds to the folklore and history surrounding Munster. There is even a play written about this victory called “Alone it Stands”. This play has travelled the world and is again evidence of the rich content and sense of community surrounding Munster Rugby.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, success breeds success. I was at Munster matches in the eighties and early nineties where there were less than two hundred people in attendance. It was the mid to late nineties when things began to turn for Munster and rugby in general in Ireland.
What was evident for local Irish people was the honesty and humility shown by the Munster players, they became the peoples’ champions. Their integrity, authenticity and their multi-directional expressive capability (MDEC) with their fan base – all these mark key aspects of the Social Business Model.
How would this work?
If Munster embraced the online social business model and decided that all the MDEC activity was to occur on their terms, how would that look? COMMUNITY, CONTENT, STORY TELLING. The main component for any online social business strategy to succeed is dynamic content which fuels MDEC conversations, Munster already have this in abundance. Add to this an adoring intrinsically motivated fan base = community, and the options are potentially limitless.
Social is about story telling and creative excellence, taking the Munster story – past, present and future – and creating content excellence. This has to be in the form of dynamic story telling which has to provoke conversations and even some controversy and tension. Like the story of Ronan O’Gara slagging off English players on SKY TV days before playing a big match in England against Leicester, in which he kicked the winning penalty with the last kick of the match, more grist to the mill.
The video above is the commentary by Michael Corcoran in the lead up to the 41 phase, Ronan O’Gara winning drop goal against Northampton last year, again with the last kick of the game, very funny
Brands do so well from the social business model because of their interaction with people. These people become brand advocates and evangelists. Munster is now one of the top supported rugby teams in the world. The Munster brand is readily recognised internationally. What are the features of a brand that mark it out for online social success? What have these companies achieved that have elevated the company to brand status?
Munster fans are some times slagged off for their passion and one eyed view that they are the only team in Ireland, for this read, “brand evangelists”. People were and still are, willing to travel any where to support their team in either the Heinekin Cup or the Rabo-Direct League.
Munster tick all the boxes which allow a Brand to become “Social”. I believe this is down to it’s internal culture, this is often the best route because it is authentic. The values and principles have emerged unbidden within the organisation, which makes the experience all the more powerful and enduring.
- Lessons can be learned from studying international brands online. The keys are authenticity and an internal culture which promotes the MDEC communication model for their online community. Strategies can be devised to leverage all aspects, with buy-in from all stake holders.
- Through the advent of social media online platforms people are getting use to an “on demand culture”. We can now access information and entertainment 24/7 as “the new normal” takes a firm grasp of your lives. As a strong advocate for the social business model, I believe the online social business model is a perfect fit for Munster Rugby. The benefits to the club would be increased income which would help the clubs long term sustainability. This would mean they could continue to compete at the highest level. Attract the top players and continue to develop great young players.
- You might ask where is that different to the present Munster business model? The shift to the online economy is underway with large numbers of the X and Y generation now using online in preference to offline. Traditional business methods are not going to succeed long term, the transition to online business will be the life blood of the majority of international brands. This online growth will continue over the coming ten years. Online transactions are already valued in billions of euros, business in Ireland has being slow to embrace this.
Munster Rugby’s business objectives have to include sustained on-field success. Increased income is the life blood of any successful team or brand. Munster Rugby needs to innovate to stay ahead in a changing world. Leinster Rugby are moving in this direction already although they do not have the same tradition or sense of community.
This is an ideal fit for Munster, but are they innovative enough to grasp the opportunity? To maximise the potential of Munster’s world wide community, where better to achieve this than online? The opportunity to increase revenues in a time where they have reported a loss for the first time in years.