Unexpected insights from England Rugby by Ann Elliott

When Ewan Turney, head of content at England Rugby, got up on Wednesday to speak at the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator conference, held by Propel and Think Hospitality, I mentally (and almost physically) checked out. It’s not that I don’t like rugby per se – I just didn’t think the topic would be of any relevance to me or my clients. Time to catch up with emails I thought – I can pick up with the conference once this session is over.

How wrong I was. Within minutes, if not seconds, Ewan had totally engaged his audience. Not easy to do so with close to 300 people in the room and lunch beckoning. I learnt so much from this session. I have tried to communicate some of Ewan’s comments below but as I was writing furiously on my knee, I may have missed some crucial bits or misinterpreted others but I hope you can get my drift. Any mistakes are mine, not Ewan’s. Here are my take-outs from this excellent presentation.

Check any brilliant ideas you might have against what you know your customers like and love. Don’t be tempted to develop a brilliant idea if it’s not aligned with your knowledge of your customer.

  • The England Rugby content is very Instagram and video heavy – it has a great subject matter of course. It really is very impactful.
  • Produce “thumb-stopping” content. The first three seconds should stop a thumb from scrolling. If it can’t do that, then the content is not arresting enough. You literally have two to three seconds to grab someone’s attention.
  • Action therefore has to be front-loaded in a video. Colour is critical.
  • It also has to be great content with the sound turned off. 85% of England Rugby’s content is watched without the sound on. Subtitles might be appropriate on some video content.
  • Readers (if that’s even the right term) have a six-second attention span.
  • Lead the content strategy with a powerful vision.

The most interesting part for me in this presentation was Ewan’s focus on strong guidelines for content. For his organisation those guidelines are:


Don’t replicate what others do – eg the BBC. Provide content your consumers cannot find anywhere else. Find areas where you have exclusive access but your competitors don’t.


Facebook Live is critical to England Rugby. It has produced a 30-minute live show for this channel that is storyboarded and scheduled – just like normal media.


England Rugby does not simply publish what it wants to publish. It listens closely to its market to find out what truly engages it and publish content for it. Facebook Live is a great tool here too, where it can answer questions from fans in real time.


A total of 80% of millennials will watch rugby on a screen while doing something else on another device so, to keep their attention, England Rugby enhances the experience of watching a game by including statistics about players or games that really interest its consumers. It makes the whole experience of watching a game much more interesting and entertaining.


This felt like it was really important to the organisation. It puts an enormous amount of effort into communicating the values of the game, the rules, how to play etc, to people at all levels.


Link the elite of the game with the grass roots. Watch its film on The Game Of Our Lives. I thought this was tremendous and brought together all the elements above in a really inspiring manner.

There was also much more to learn from this than I can communicate here. It was very clear and straightforward, no fluff, yet emotional and highly engaging. It was fabulous stuff. Thank you, Ewan.

By | 2018-03-16T16:34:12+00:00 January 19th, 2018|Propel|Comments Off on Unexpected insights from England Rugby by Ann Elliott

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