Launching a Major League Rugby team

None of us knew market research so we needed a partner that could handle everything soup-to-nuts. But we got so much more, research experts with specific expertise in rugby and the Atlanta market, and invaluable strategic consultancy in our crucial launch planning.

Business Issue

Major League Rugby (MLR) is the top tier of competitive, professional rugby in the US. As the fastest growing sport in the country, Atlanta was invited to include a team in the 2020 league expansion. But, the new team’s owners had many questions, such as whether there was sufficient interest for an Atlanta-based rugby team to draw in large crowds (such as Atlanta United in soccer), and where the team should play its games to be closest to fans. The team owners brought Escalent on board to conduct a detailed market analysis and provide recommendations to optimize the launch of the new team.

What We Did

Escalent conducted a large quantitative study within the broader Atlanta market to assess the viability of a new MLR team. Constructing the survey using fundamentals from both brand and sponsorship research, we initially assessed awareness of, and enthusiasm for, rugby as a sport. Then, we dove deeper into specific  topics of interest, such as team name, team colors, and stadium location. Most importantly, we collected data that could quantitatively predict the number of avid fans for the new team in the Atlanta area and, therefore, likely television viewership and attendance figures.

Result

We discovered that there was not only a far higher awareness of rugby than anticipated but also strong enthusiasm for a local team in Atlanta. Walking the new team owners through our revelatory insights, we gave them the confidence of knowing there would likely be at least two million casual fans of rugby in the greater Atlanta region, with a minimum of 250,000 avid fans of the team. The owners used the findings extensively as the cornerstone of their launch planning, right down to finer details such as the team name and colors. In February 2020, Rugby ATL was born, playing its first game ever against the Utah Warriors at the Life University stadium in North Atlanta.

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