Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rugby 2.0

I've been spending some time with the team at Telecom who are hooked into Yahoo!. A few of them have come back from a trip recently where they went to Web2.0 and also spent some time with Yahoo! discussing strategy.

Their overall summary was that Y! have got a very solid strategy around Web 2.0 to the point where they are coming up with tools that will make Y! services better but also will work well with other Web 2.0 services. A case in point is the feed on this blog from Plaxo Pulse, a 'social network' tool I am using. It is a feed from Plaxo in Blogger using a third party widget. That widget relies on using pipes from Y! to work. Doesn't drive any traffic as such to Y! (well not yet) but I now know how to use it and can use it with other Y! services. They are embracing OpenID. They open applications like Flickr up to work with other apps. This all ties to Y! understanding that their purpose is all about advertising. They don't have to be number 1 in all the verticals as long as they embrace the fact that they operate within a broader ecosystem, and they use the elements within that to drive a strong position in their focal point - advertising. Sure they are not perfect - however they are better positioned than most.

They get they are part of bigger picture that inevitably they won’t control
They know what their key assets are (traffic).
They know what their revenue model is (advertising)
They open up to drive more traffic.

It’s pretty simple.

I'm on a plane writing this and have just read a number of articles from the Herald about the state of rugby in NZ. They are individual opinions that state amongst other things

- Convening players for AB camp early doesn't make sense as they are our number 1 asset and need rest so we can keep on winning
- Springboks are having to choose between Euro contracts and playing for their country - this is generally portrayed as the players are greedy so let’s stick it to them (rapacious is the word used to describe them)
- The sabbatical idea for Dan Carter is silly and we should just open the gates to picking players wherever they are playing and be commercially smart to make $
- NZRU have failed and are too arrogant to admit it.

So putting the Kiwi knocking machine to one side (I mean, who is arrogant - the NZRU or the reporter for saying they are?), I was thinking about a remodelling of NZ Rugby based on web 2.0 principles. Let’s call it NZ Rugby 2.0

It would start with a few principles

1. Rugby is a global, and professional game that provides unprecedented choice for players, administrators and audiences.
2. There are local, regional and global competitions where Rugby is available for audiences
3. It is open - there is no one authority that controls it apart from setting basic standards (i.e. IRB is about setting rules for playing the game and maybe the global competition - the rest is devolved)
4. NZ Rugby cannot survive on its own – it has to contribute to and operate within the global ecosystem.

Under this NZ Rugby would need to be very clear about what its purpose is. At the moment it is trying to be too many things

1. The global leader in playing rugby
2. Sustaining the amateur game
3. Controlling player movement
4. A successful business.

Under NZ Rugby 2.0, I would propose that it has a single purpose

- Become the number 1 brand in rugby entertainment with audiences, broadcasters and players.

It would also recognise that the two key assets it has are

1. The All Blacks Brand
2. The systems that produce professional players and coaches.
3. The AB’s coach

In a radical view I would say that the actual players are not key assets - sure they are assets but in general they have limited life and are subject to high maintenance costs. The system that produces them is definitely the key asset.

The revenue model is simple

1. Broadcast and internet rights – AB matches and other professional games
2. Merchandising – AB merchandising needs to get to the same scale as professional football. New kits every year.
3. Gate sales – these will have to go up – this is the ultimate supply / demand constraint (only so many seats in a stadium). Can be justified if the A team is on the park.
4. Transfer fees – if Northern Hemisphere clubs are going to continue to pay huge $ for players then take a slice.

The key implications on the existing organisation are

1. This organisation cannot be the same organisation that manages the amateur game. It would have to support it (with funding and players) but the purposes are just two different to manage.
2. Forget about trying to control player drain – instead embrace it and use these players as a way to influence the broader ecosystem. In particular re-jigging the global competition structures. Retain the right to call on players to play for the All Blacks to develop that brand. Global player movement builds that brand. Don’t just limit that to the Dan Carters of the game. That is anti-competitive and short sighted (imagine – DC gets injured while on ‘sabbatical’ and now Nick Evans can’t be called up – doh!).
3. Coach becomes really important – he is the guy that pulls a team together from a bunch of guys spread around the world and substantiates the AB’s brand.
4. Communicate like hell with stakeholders – ask them what they really want and rapidly adapt to suit.
5. Governance needs to change – the NZRU model of the provincial unions deciding the make-up of the Board is totally out of date.
6. NZ Rugby is an exporter to a global market – big shift in perspective.

If you think this is without evidence have a look at Argentina. Most of their players are playing the Northern Hemisphere. They were 3rd in the last world Cup beating France to get there.

If the best players were on the park I might start turning up or tuning in to watch again.


Ben said...

Jeeze at this rate you're going to get snapped up by a brand agency ;) love your work

slowblink said...

I know I could do this while you're half-wheeling me around the bays, but lets play the game and do this on the blog:
Good points, and I like the principal BUT:
The asset the RFU have is the machine that produces talent. Rugby talent, coaching talent, reffing talent.

Start selling the talent and not the players. set up coaching in china, usa, africa. seek sponsors to pay for it. have some financial interest in finding clubs for the unearthed talent.

If you want to make money from the overseas players, seek games (1 per year?) of expats vs residents.