World Rugby, the global governing body of rugby union, has appointed the IMG agency to manage the global licensing and merchandising rights for the next two editions of its Rugby World Cup and a number of its other major tournaments.
The strategic partnership will cover the World Cup in 2019 and 2023, as well as the Women’s Rugby World Cup, World Rugby U20 Championship and the World Rugby brand.
Led by IMG’s offices in London, Paris and Tokyo, a transnational team will now develop an extensive licensing programme for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, the first edition of the national team tournament to take place in Asia.
World Rugby said that IMG will encourage core category and creative licensees to design, produce and distribute ranges of apparel, fan, lifestyle and leisure products in the host nation and other markets around the world.
Hosting rights for the 2023 World Cup have not yet been awarded, but France, Ireland and South Africa have each put forward a bid to stage the showpiece event. World Rugby is scheduled to announce a host nation on November 15 and will work with IMG on licensing for the tournament once this has been confirmed.
Bruno Maglione, president of the licensing division at IMG, said: “Audiences across more and more countries are taking note of rugby’s constant action, athleticism and competitiveness, and the Rugby World Cup is the sport’s pinnacle global tournament.
“Our licensing program will be anchored in both Europe and Japan and feature a great range of products for spectators and fans of all ages.”
In addition to activity centred around the World Cup, IMG will work to develop permanent specialty lines under the World Rugby brand, as well as a ‘Hall of Fame’ memorabilia programme and also various electronic and mobile games.
Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, added: “The global licensing programme plays an important role in fan engagement, enabling fans of all ages to connect to World Rugby through our major properties.”