Insurers’ rugby sponsorship puts a premium on giving staff kicks

Joe Hall
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Admiral treats long-serving staff to a day at the rugby
Admiral’s deal with Welsh Rugby Union breaks mould by putting employees first
A recurring theme for the businesses sponsoring teams at this year’s Rugby World Cup is the increased exposure their brand can expect to receive from the international tournament.
Yet directors at car insurance specialist Admiral will be just as concerned with the Welsh team’s progress from a tricky group as they are with the post-tournament balance sheet.
The FTSE 100’s only Wales-based company has been the national rugby team’s official shirt sponsor since 2010 and added a two-year extension to its deal earlier this year.
Yet as the firm’s director of communications Louisa Scadden explains, the partnership is less about raising money and schmoozing executives than providing staff with unforgettable events and access to their favourite team.
“It’s not about business to business,” Scadden told City A.M. “It’s about engaging with staff and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have really understood that and offered to provide experiences that money could never buy.
“We’re a Welsh company and rugby is practically a religion here so we asked staff if they’d like to sponsor it and overwhelmingly they said yes.
“Each year we ask our staff in our annual survey: ‘Do you still value the Welsh Rugby sponsorship?’ They do, and so that’s why we signed another two-year deal.
“It’s a very different sponsorship. It’s not necessarily about targeting customers; it’s about staff motivation and engagement. It’s about giving as many benefits as we can to our staff through the rugby.”
Admiral’s staff-focused sponsorship means its workers will have as much invested in the players wearing the Wales shirts as they do in the brand on the front. Players regularly make visits to the group’s offices in south Wales, where it employs more than 5,000 people, and are delivered special video messages from captain Sam Warburton himself, as well as receiving a host of other opportunities.
Admiral has given away more than 3,000 free tickets to Wales games to staff, says sponsorship manager James Carnduff, as well as providing early access to ticket sales and discounts on replica kits and rugby equipment.
“For our 15- and 20-year company anniversaries for long-serving staff, we took about 130 people to the rugby,” says Carnduff.


“They get to go much earlier than everyone else and do the traditional stadium tour but on a matchday which doesn’t happen normally. They get to go into the changing room with all the player’s shirts up ready and waiting. We had Martin Williams and Scott Quinnell in there telling them what it feels like as a player.”
Other events organised in tandem with the WRU have included “train like a player”, in which staff travel to Wales’ training camp “and go through the exact type of training the players will go through”, led by a player or the team’s strength and conditioning coach, and the opportunity to interview players. Head coaches past and present Rob Howley and Warren Gatland have even delivered speeches on preparing for the World Cup at the staff’s annual meeting.
Of course, Scadden concedes, Admiral forecast an “external benefit” from its connection to one of the World Cup’s biggest teams, yet she continually reiterates that “it’s all about the staff”.
Such a holistic attitude to its sponsorship is representative of its wider approach. “In our office, there are no offices,” Carnduff explains. “Our senior manager sits on the floor with everyone else.”
“I’ve worked for companies where you do sponsorships and it’s always the team managers who get all the benefits,” says Scadden.
“Well, if you want your staff to be engaged you have to get them involved otherwise they go ‘what’s in it for me?’ Admiral are like that generally, it’s about staff first.”
Such an approach helps to explain why it enjoys such a good relationship with the Welsh rugby team known for its dedication and teams spirit.
“I do think the Welsh team in general are very, very accessible and open to people,” says Scadden. “They understand their fans and want to be closer to them. They’re a very popular team because of that.”
Carnduff agrees: “They’re very used to interacting with the public, they know they’re going to get stopped by people. People always come away from every experience we do with hugely positive things to say about not just the sponsorship opportunities they’ve been given but about their players and environment they’ve been allowed into.”
“They’ll get a massive insight into how Welsh rugby works but the players are always interested in what our guys do, so that makes it even more special. It’s just such a positive thing.”

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