Rugby World Cup 2023 Opening Match Chronicle
Senior Account Director, Global Operations
- Sep 29, 2023
Beret, Eiffel Tower and Peña Baiona
More than two years ago, I purchased tickets to attend the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. After what felt like forever, the day finally arrived in mid-September. With much excitement, I attended the opening ceremony and match with my 10-year-old son and 20 plus friends, all of whom, were former rugby players.
The Eiffel Tower, baguettes, red wine, perfume, and gastronomy were on full display during the deliberately Frenchie kick off ceremony to the Rugby World Cup. Whether we liked this cliched approach to highlight French culture or not is up for debate, but we were there to see rugby. Bravo to the World Rugby Organization because they created a party highlighting the folklore of rugby. We were all there for the sport and I was there particularly to cheer on the France National Union Rugby Team.
With the absence of some of our greatest players, doubt was in the air. And we couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. The French looked tired and worn out, but their opponents were unable to break them down, ending the first half with 9 – 8 lead. Luckily, the second half was a much better story and, fatigue aside, the team pulled out an incredible 27-13 victory. Cocorico!
This made for 15.4 million happy French TV viewers and over 78,000 spectators who were able to witness some good rugby. The stadium was jubilant. In an ecstatic Stade de France, the Tricolores entered the World Cup in the best possible way, and we arrived home later that evening full of memories.
What about the fan experience?
As a marketing and operations professional working in the global sport and hospitality sector for 20+ years, I have a unique point of view on the fan experience.
In the midst of cheering on my team, we attended brand activations in both the stadium and at the fan zone in La Concorde where brands showed up for fans. Meta appeared with the mascots, Mastercard showed off the Webb Ellis Cup replica, and the player of the match partner, Asahi, served beers at the concessions. The Rail Europe Train, SCNF wrapped all the host city's train stations to catch the eye of the visitor. These are just some examples of what the in-person fan witnessed, with other brands showing up on TV commercials, such as Société Générale, Emirates, Defender and Total Energies. Whether virtual or in person, fans could also download the RWC app with a fantasy option to play into RWC actions.
With the highly anticipated 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games happening in Paris next summer, here are some key takeaways from my experience at the Rugby World Cup for fans considering attending The Games:
Public transportation is preferred but be ready in case of hot temperature.
We always favor utilizing public transport around the city. Although Paris has been experiencing an unbearable heat wave with temperatures hovering around 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature in the train is unbearable, so plan your walking path, or rides carefully and bring proper hydration for your trip.
Food & Beverage
Prepare your before and after match plan. The sale of alcohol is authorized in Rugby World Cup stadiums, although the organizers didn't think of everything to satisfy the fans' thirst—beer was hard to come by on the opening weekend. Due to French law, there will not be any liquor sales allowed in competition venues during the 2024 Olympics unless the fan is a VIP. The law prohibits liquor sales in stadiums but is different for suites as they are considered a catered hospitality area. This change is unique to past Games where alcohol sales were permitted for all fans.
Ticketing & Getting at the venue
Tip: have your paperless ticket ready and in your phone wallet, and bring your ID since control will be reinforced.
Our digital Rugby ticket gave us access on presentation of the QR code at the turnstiles. After a warm welcome from the volunteers, we were in our seats in less than 30 minutes from entry, but that isn’t always the case. You hear fans missing the start of games due to unexpected wait times or game-day traffic, so I encourage fans to get to the stadium early, as recommended by the organizing committee.
Brands Can Help Alleviate These Pain Points
My son, friends and I had an unforgettable experience at the Rugby World Cup, something I believe the fans of the 2024 Olympic Games will leave with, too.
At GMR Marketing, we want fans to leave an event with an experience in hand. We know that memories are like a string of lights, some burn brighter than others. And global sporting events with heightened fan passion provide the perfect base for brands to bring forward experiences that can help alleviate fan pain points and elevate the experience. Have questions about how your brand can do this? We can help.