Six Nations in race against time to find new title sponsor
The organisers of rugby union’s Six Nations may have to set their sights lower, or even go without, in negotiations over a new title sponsor with just one offer on the table little more than four months out from the 2018 edition, it has been reported.
Prior to this year’s tournament, the last to be sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland, it emerged that a six-year deal worth £100 million ($135 million) was the target.
However, despite talks with over 150 companies, there is only one bid and that is lower than the £11 million per year RBS was paying, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
It is understood that a deadline of the end of this month has been set for a title sponsorship agreement to be reached, and there are concerns a further delay could lead to the only offer being withdrawn.
The 2018 Six Nations, involving defending champions England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, kicks off on 3 February.
It is reported that economic uncertainty caused by the UK’s planned withdrawal from the European Union has complicated efforts to find a major sponsor willing to pay the requested fee.
A senior source told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: “The sponsorship market is very tough for everyone at the moment.”
It is thought that the organisers could be forced to consider a short-term, lower-income deal while they wait for economic conditions to improve.
If so, they would be following the example of England’s top-tier Premiership Rugby, which last month agreed a one-year extension, at a reduced fee, of its title sponsorship deal with Aviva, the insurance company that had previously announced its intention to withdraw.
RBS had been the title sponsor of the Six Nations for 14 years, but announced in June 2016 that it would not be renewing as it was opting to pursue an “alternative sponsorship strategy.”
John Feehan, the chief executive of the Six Nations, said in January: “We want a sponsor who is actively engaged not just in Britain, but around the world. We see potential in markets like the USA. We want a brand to align with that.”
He continued: “The Six Nations is the biggest sponsorship in world rugby by a country mile. We’ve been in contact with well over 150 companies and we’re in a very good place… Being the highest bidder ticks a huge amount of boxes but it's not all about that.”