Mastercard is getting behind the future of women’s rugby. The financial services giant has inked an expansive five-year deal with World Rugby that includes becoming the founding global partner of the governing body’s new Women in Rugby marketing campaign, focused on, as the name implies, accelerating development of the women’s game by growing youth participation and raising the profile of its competitions.
As part of the partnership, Mastercard becomes the first Worldwide Partner for the 2021 and 2025 Rugby World Cup competitions, as the preferred card for both tournaments and the first global partner of WXV, a new annual global women’s competition slated to start in 2023.
World Rugby said Mastercard’s support will “supercharge” the second half of its eight-year plan implemented in 2017 to accelerate global development of the women’s game. The plan included goals to double the number of registered players and “significantly” increase involvement and interest from fans, audiences, players and investors.
More than 2.7 million women and girls currently play the sport, according to World Rugby, making up a quarter of the world’s playing population. Nielsen Research done for World Rugby indicated that interest in women’s rugby is up 15% in “established” markets since 2018 and 22% in emerging markets.
Mastercard has a history in rugby, having partnered with the men’s Rugby World Cup since 2008 and the women’s iteration since 2017.
“Our new commercial partnership reflects our ambitious plans to advance women in rugby at all levels and, as a long-standing supporter of rugby, Mastercard is a perfect fit,” World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said. “We have developed an ambitious commercial strategy to underpin the sustainable growth of women’s rugby, encompassing both the elite and community levels of the sport, enabling partners to champion and support all aspects of the women’s game and make an impact in this priority area.”
Mastercard will also serve as the exclusive partner of the Youth Unstoppables element of the Women in Rugby campaign, which will aim to grow girls’ involvement in the sport through a digital content series championing inspirational females.
“We are honored to support a sport as inclusive as women’s rugby that has seen unprecedented growth in recent years,” said Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard CMO and chief communications officer. Rajamannar said his company is bullish about the future of women’s rugby—and women’s sports more broadly.
The news follows Mastercard’s recent multi-year deal with the NWSL to be an official sponsor of the women’s soccer league. Rajamannar said both deals are “rewarding on multiple levels” and make sense from a business perspective given that 80% of purchases are made by women. “Putting weight behind women’s sports is a huge priority, and we’re executing on that now.”
In addition to financial support, Mastercard integrated itself into the NWSL’s fan-experience efforts, launching league-specific offerings for customers on Priceless.com and creating NWSL-inspired curriculum for its STEM education program developed for middle school-aged girls, called Girls4Tech. The company, which was advised on the partnership by Octagon, will similarly utilize its Priceless platform to curate World Rugby fan experiences and develop rugby-specific content that aligns with Girls4Tech.
Rajamannar said both partnerships are part of a concerted effort to balance Mastercard’s sport sponsorship portfolio with continued investments in women’s sports, which also include teams, such as Arsenal W.F.C. in the Women’s Super League (the top tier of English women’s football), and French women’s football club Olympique Lyonnais Feminin. The company is also an official sponsor of tennis’ Australian Open and the LPGA Tour’s British major, the AIG Women’s Open.
Mastercard also sponsors a number of female athletes as ambassadors, including USWNT and Portland Thorns defender Crystal Dunn, tennis star Naomi Osaka, Australian soccer star Sam Kerr, Norwegian soccer player Ada Hegerberg and Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sorenstam.