After a disappointing home World Cup for England four years prior, the rugby team needed to respond positively… but this time on foreign and unfamiliar soil.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup would be hosted in Japan, and aside from the vast distance from home support, fixtures and kick-off times would be at unusual & working hours – proving difficult for fans and sponsors to rally together & maximize the support of the nation.


Maintaining an energetic level of interest and enthusiastic support following on from a home-hosted World Cup would prove challenging wherever the tournament moves on to, but a full 9-hours time difference, in a vastly different culture with no local brand representation, calibrated budgets for a foreign-hosted tournament & (ultra) strict tournament regulations… it’s fair to assume we had our work for the brand cut out for us.

However, the team’s success was imperative for the brand to maximize exposure & favorable sentiment. And with the distance of home support so far away, we would have to scream & yell even louder to be heard & felt as our boys take to the field.


Prompt national pride and visible ‘acts of support’ for the England Rugby team through a call-to-arms and O2-rugby properties

Business Objective
Increased phone & contract sales/leads from rugby/nationalistic audience

Marketing Objective
– Brand preference – Love and consideration for Q3/4 2019
– Market share – New consumer and SMB contracts during key trading period Q3/4 2019

Communications Objective
Rally support from England & England Rugby fans

Social Objective
Share of conversation – O2 at the heart of England rugby conversation during the world cup


O2 invests in us…

While competitors focus on updates and bundles, we strive for visceral experiences, connection & feelings through sport, music, entertainment – and we believe we have the tools (we all do – we carry them in our pockets every day) to enhance those moments.

Recognizing these moments, and rugby is no exception, is best enjoyed alongside others – a tantric & primordial ritual of coming together in which energy & enthusiasm of like-minded & invested individuals grows and becomes much more infectious, but also more enjoyable.

Infectious energy in which sportspeople thrive upon – home crowds & acts of support somehow come together & converts into a kinetic energy making us nimbler, stronger, faster… better.


Strategic Platform

Feel closer when we Wear The Rose

Creative Territory

Our community’s support makes us stronger

Campaign Idea

Be Their Armour

To best communicate this, we had to best manage the rugby calendar & tailor our comms to our benefit to build ascension/momentum ahead of & during the World Cup.


Comms Framework

Ignite the World Cup countdown & tease our call-to-arms

Excite fans & build upon anticipation by exploring & exposing more

Unite the country in showing their support to be England’s armour



The triumphant close to the Quilter’s competition, it also welcomed the preparations and official countdown to the World Cup in Japan later in the year.

England’s performance and convincing home victory vs Scotland played into our hands as we prepared the first official tease of the World Cup campaign on the scoreboard, pitchside ad boards & closing screen of the game broadcast on TV.

The partially cryptic nature of the creative was designed to rouse curiosity while still being instantly recognisable for the brand and the suggested anticipation of the competition later in the year.


The summer break also limited access to the England squad as they began their training camp & tournament preparations.

Therefore we leaned on past players & our O2-rugby talent to continue the momentum at PR events to rouse fandom and encourage the coming together to show support.



Once the squad has been announced we anticipated the general mass engagement would subside considerably, making us explore a blended content format of lifestyle, culture & rugby to appeal beyond the hardcore fans.

However, that’s not to say these super fans in combination with popular online publishers wouldn’t play a key role in helping us amplify & share our content onto others & widening its appeal.

The series, ‘Travel Fan in Japan‘, is a six-episode series hosted by Ugo Monye & Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing to travel around the country, sampling Japanese culture.

Throughout the six-episode series, the pair will visit Tokyo, Yokohama, Sapporo, Osaka & Kobe, taking on Sumo wrestlers, playing O2 touch rugby with Japanese school kids & visiting a female samurai warrior.

Each episode explores a key characteristic of what it means to be an international rugby player, and the pair will highlight the influence of rugby and the Bushido values which tie the sport to the country.

As we drew closer to the World Cup, and buzz began to come out of the camp, and wider sports media, we planned the social (and YouTube bumper-placed) unveiling in partnership with JOE of another tease filmclip to garner familiarity & anticipation for when the official call-to-arms would be finally revealed.


O2 draws inspiration from samurai culture ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The 90-second brand film sees mysterious riders burst into a remote forest settlement to rouse its shadowy inhabitants into action, following them through the forging and fitting of the mighty, rose-bearing armour of the England team. Armed with the extraordinary and uniquely customised English Samurai armour that the fans have made, the players are then ready to face the world – standing side by side with their fans.

The campaign continues a key branding asset and call-to-action through the #WearTheRose hashtag.

Using frequent prompts for fans to show their ‘acts of support’, it acts like armour for the players; every tweet is another link of chainmail, every roar of support is another piece of armour and together we can make them stronger.

Populating culture with these ‘prompts’ included proliferating social feeds.

We created custom gifs and stickers for fans to use when reacting to game moments on their public social channels & direct message apps with their fellow friends, family & fan groups.


England’s good run in the competition also presented a unique opportunity for the brand.

Broadcast from four O2 fan venues across the country (Birmingham, Bristol, London and Oxford) O2 partnered with ITV to broadcast the world’s first 5G advert– showing England fans screaming wildly at the camera alongside footage of “real-time fan reactions” to all TVs tuning in around the country.


Total acts of support

Client: O2
Agency: VCCP
Partner agencies: Havas, M&C Saatchi
ECD: Darren Bailes
Creative Director: Jim Capp

Strategy Director: Ellie Gauci
Account Team: Rose Bartel, Matt Flint, Emma Russell, Anna Skinner
Strategy: Mick Valentine, Alex Scott-Malden
Creative: James Rafter, Myles Vincent

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