And you’re unable to make the trip to Las Vegas this year to attend the tournament in person? Kicking yourself for not checking out the big party in mid-February? Welcome to the same boat that many of us are in. Before you get upset at the idea of not going to Vegas, think about it. You’re actually in luck, and you have an important responsibility to help the U.S. Rugby community as well.
As we know, this year is the unofficial “Year of Rugby” at NBC/Universal, as far as I’m concerned. Between the USA Sevens Tournament, potential collegiate rugby matches, and the 2011 Rugby World Cup this Fall, there’s going to be more rugby than ever before on network TV, not counting all of the cable possibilities that come from working with a media conglomerate such as NBC.
Watching Olympic Rugby on TV is not the same as being at the tournament, we all know that. And it’s definitely not the same as being at a tournament like the USA Sevens, with all of the passionate and crazy fans in the stands, as well as world class rugby on the pitch.
Now that that’s been said, you need to get over it, cowboy up and realize that you have a job to do as well to help rugby in the U.S. If you’re not at the tournament, this is your chance to help evangelize the sport that we all love to your friends and family.
Your first instinct about watching the game is probably going to be to roll to the pub to catch the tournament, or to have a bunch of your rugby friends over to watch the tournament. If you do this, and you’re not part of the Nielsen rating system then the Monday following the tournament you need to call your local NBC station, or contact the national NBC Sports office. Let them know that as a fan, you appreciate them taking the time in their TV schedule to show rugby, and that you’re excited for the next time they are going to show some rugby.
Next, and this is going to take not much more work than just keeping a pen and paper near the TV set, jot down the name of one or two advertisers at each commercial break, pay special attention to companies that seem to be buying a more than two or three advertising slots each hour. Early the following week you’re going to, yep you guessed it, contact those advertisers and let them know the same thing that you did above. Advertisers need to know that people are watching about their product, and if they believe there is a market in a certain demographic out there (such as rugby players) they will become more willing to buy more advertising, which invests some money in the sport.
This is all about mustering our own resources, as fans of the game, which is our interest in the game, and our willingness to contact those who are helping to support the spread of the rugby gospel and let them know they are being seen. For every person who watches the tournament at home, ask a few of your non-rugby friends if they want to check out the tournament. If they like it, they might even be willing to make a call to the TV station as well, as a favor for a friend. If you start small and work on building your way up with more friends, the tournaments and TV “get togethers” start to act as a force multiplier, getting more people interested, then getting them to call in, and hopefully getting more rugby on TV, and repeating the cycle.
It’s the old idea behind community relations, and it’s something that you see a lot of politicians doing, getting people together in the intimate setting of a home, or a living room, and getting engaged with them in something that matters to those people. Instead of a politician, we have the TV blasting rugby goodness into your home, and the thing that matters is getting them involved in the sport of rugby, if not playing then at least checking it out, and what better way to do that than in a party setting. Think of it as having your own piece of the stands at the tournament, but without the face and body paint, unless that’s what you go in for.