Vergnol succeeds Couchouron as commercial chief of European club rugby
François Vergnol, the experienced sports sponsorship executive, was today unveiled as the new marketing and commercial director of European Professional Club Rugby, the Switzerland-based organiser of the European rugby union club competitions.
Vergnol (pictured) replaces Carsten Couchouron, who announced his departure back in October, prompting EPCR to appoint headhunters Odgers Berndtson to lead a recruitment process.
The French executive joins EPCR from Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, the US media and advertising group, where was director for the Barcelona project, which involved developing a commercialisation strategy for the Spanish soccer giants' redevelopment of their Camp Nou stadium.
Prior to VWSE, he was commercial director of OC Sport, in charge of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Vincent Gaillard, EPCR director general, said: "François brings a wealth of experience to EPCR and arrives at an important time in our commercial evolution. With the surge in exposure of our tournaments on a range of television and innovative OTT platforms around the world, and with attendances growing in addition to the return of Heineken as title sponsor of the Champions Cup, EPCR is well-placed to deliver increasing value to its partners and stakeholders. We are delighted that François will be leading that development."
Vergnol said: "The Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup are clearly premium tournaments with a global reach, however, I believe they have untapped potential in terms of their commercial results as well as their audience reach and engagement. With my experience in the sports industry, I am looking forward both to growing the value of the properties and to playing a part in EPCR’s exciting future."
Vergnol's primary task will be to boost the sponsorship portfolio.
Last year, Heineken, the Dutch beer brewer, announced it would return as the title sponsor of the top-tier Champions Cup in a four-year deal starting in 2018-19.
Heineken had been the sole title sponsor of the competition’s predecessor, known simply as the Heineken Cup, but was reduced to the status of an official partner when the European club competitions were revamped, under the auspices of EPCR, ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.
ECPR had originally planned a reformed commercial structure based on that of soccer’s Uefa Champions League, which does not have a main partner, with up to six sponsors at the same level, but a challenging economic environment for rugby prompted a change of tack.
With Turkish Airlines' deal having expired after the 2017-18 season, the only other sponsors on board are lower-tier official suppliers Tissot, Gilbert and the Financial Times newspaper.Gaillard told Sportcal in June that the organisation was now in the market for a title sponsor for the Challenge Cup, the predecessor of which was known as the Amlin Challenge Cup, after the UK-based insurance company.
Global broadcast rights to the two competitions, outside of the UK, Ireland, France and USA, are distributed by RDA, the UK-based sports media rights agency, from 2018-19 to 2021-22.
Couchouron joined ECPR in September 2015, having spent almost two years as a marketing and business development consultant after stepping down as commercial director of the FEI, equestrianism's governing body. He had spent five years at the FEI, helping to secure new sponsorship deals, prior to which he was associate director, business development at the Infront sports marketing agency.