A recent documentary on Britain’s double Tour de France winner Chris Froome, was subtitled “the untold story of power is the ability to go harder and longer than anyone else”. In the offices of Duracell batteries, the marketing team nodded sagely at each other. Power and longevity: their two watchwords. After all, that Duracell bunny has been going for 41 years now.
“And then it was suggested,” says Alex Haslam, senior brand manager for Great Britain and Ireland, “that the Rugby World Cup embodied those two qualities just as much. The sport is all about power, and it’s a six-week event that’s going to require the best to keep going for a very long time. There was an intuitive link between us and the competition.”
Which is how Duracell has come to be the official battery of Rugby World Cup 2015. “It’s a great way to get the trade excited by our product,” says Haslam. “Let’s face it. Everyone needs batteries but not everyone thinks about batteries. In the run-up to the competition and throughout it, we can galvanise major supermarkets and other outlets through our involvement with the event.”
Wales captain Sam Warburton is Duracell’s face of the World Cup. When I spoke to Haslam, he wasn’t quite sure if anyone had plucked up the courage yet to ask Big Sam if he’d mind wearing the bunny outfit for some publicity shots.
“Players like Sam and England captain Chris Robshaw are just the kind of individuals who we were thinking of when we teamed up with [statisticians] Opta to create the Duracell Power Check,” he adds. It’s a gauge by which players can assess their power ratio through correlating data on ground made, tackles and rucks hit – all related to the amount of time spent on the pitch. It’s the ultimate rugby macho league table. Top of it will arguably be the most powerful man in world rugby.
“I’m really excited to see who’ll be at the head of the rankings,” says Haslam. “It’s a unique way or assessing the individual players by putting them in a format that everyone can understand. For example, in the Rugby World Cup final in 2003, even though England won, it was an Australian player who came out clearly on top. That’s really interesting to expert and non-expert alike.”
Britain is second only to the United States in terms of market size for Duracell. The company has been in partnership with the NFL before, and had a brief involvement with the All Blacks in New Zealand, but this is its first foray into British sport. “Brand awareness is not what it’s about,” says Haslam. “It’s about emphasising our qualities. People know they can walk into Poundland and buy a dozen cheap batteries, but they also know they won’t last very long. It’s no good having a rugby player like that, and that’s the link we’re making.”
His own rugby career as a strong-running centre was mostly restricted to captaining his school team “which meant I was on the field all the time, so I would probably have scored well on the Power Check.” His enthusiasm for the sport is contagious, and he can’t wait for the England-Wales group match in particular, but there’s a shrewd business approach involved at the same time. “It’s about being the best for the longest possible period. That’s us. And that ultimately will be the World Cup-winning team."