World Rugby has appointed IMG to manage the global licensing and merchandising rights for the next two Rugby World Cups and its other tournaments.

The long-term strategic partnership encompasses the Rugby World Cup 2019 and 2023 as a primary focus, as well as the Women’s Rugby World Cup, World Rugby U20 Championship and the World Rugby brand.

One of the world’s largest, most recognisable and best-loved major sports events, the Rugby World Cup has consistently grown in size, coverage and scope since the inaugural event took place in 1987, and is set to break new frontiers as it makes its Asian debut in Japan in 2019. The quadrennial international tournament has greatly raised rugby’s profile as the sport continues to experience unprecedented growth across male, female and youth participation. 

World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “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. With Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan rapidly approaching, we are delighted to be partnering with IMG to deliver an exciting and attractive range of products for fans of all ages, from official apparel and merchandise to electronic games.”

A transnational team led from IMG’s offices in London, Paris and Tokyo will develop an extensive licensing programme that captures the excitement of the tournament’s first Asian edition and supports the continued growth and promotion of the game.

Bruno Maglione, President of IMG’s licensing division, said: “We are pleased to take part in the amazing story that is the growth of this tournament and the sport of rugby in general. 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.”

 IMG will target both core category and creative licensees to design, produce and distribute ranges of apparel, fan, lifestyle and leisure products to be sold in the host market and leading international markets. In addition to Rugby World Cup and other tournament programs, IMG will be working on the development of permanent specialty lines under the World Rugby brand, a Hall of Fame memorabilia programme and electronic and mobile games.

Rugby World Cup 2015 in England was the most watched, best-attended and digitally-consumed rugby event of all time, achieving its highest ever TV audience during the Japan v Samoa match (25.3 million viewers) in Brighton. The tournament’s debut in Asia in 2019 will create new opportunities for the sport, opening the game up to new markets, ideas and participants in the world’s most populous region.

While the men’s game continues to flourish, women’s rugby is now one of the fastest-growing team sports on the planet with 40 percent of the total playing population of 7.73 million currently women or girls.

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland was the biggest-ever women’s fifteens rugby tournament, taking the sport to new audiences worldwide and attracting girls and boys to the sport.


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