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IMG retains exclusive World Rugby commercial agency mandate

(Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

World Rugby has re-appointed IMG as its exclusive commercial partner agency for the next Rugby World Cup cycle through to the 2023 tournament in France.

The renewal agreement, which experts believed was always likely, followed what World Rugby today (Thursday) described as a “comprehensive review”.

Under the new agreement, IMG will continue to represent the sale of the tournament’s top-tier Worldwide Partner programme and overall commercial advisory services across the four-year cycle.

It will also handle the delivery of rights for all sponsorship operations, brand services, licensing and merchandising management.

IMG also negotiates broadcast rights deals worldwide on behalf of World Rugby. This aspect has not been announced as part of the latest agreement given it is part of a separate deal but a renewal of the broadcast rights aspect is expected to be signed in due course.

IMG was well-placed to retain the rights having overcome some of the risks in taking the Rugby World Cup to Japan in 2019 with the tournament generating record sponsorship revenue.

World Rugby, chief commercial officer, Tom Hill told SportBusiness in August: “We were thinking potentially it wouldn’t be as attractive for sponsors as 2015, given the time zone, but that certainly hasn’t been the case.”

Read this: Tom Hill, World Rugby | Dual award of 2015 and 2019 World Cups helped mitigate Japan risks

IMG began working with the Rugby World Cup in 1993. The latest agreement will see the relationship extend to an eighth tournament cycle.

Jonathan Kritzinger, SVP of Rugby, IMG, said that the agency had “built a highly experienced group of execs to service this property.”

Read this: Japan 2019 set to break Rugby World Cup licensing records

IMG has worked with World Rugby across all its main commercial and broadcast rights.

In 2017, IMG was appointed manager of the global licensing and merchandising rights for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and 2023.

IMG also advises on the media rights for the Rugby World Cup. Global television rights are sold by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of World Rugby.

Under the partnership, RWCL and IMG agree on a sales strategy for a respective market, IMG negotiates with local broadcasters and drafts licensed media agreements. RWCL remains the signatory to all deals.

Hill said: “It all ends up being about relationships. They [IMG] have better relationships with some broadcasters and we have better relationships with others, but together we get it done.”