A global game: why Heathrow Express is investing in sevens

THE aim of Heathrow Express’s investment in sevens rugby is simple: to get more people to travel on our train between London Paddington and the airport.

Our customers, 70 per cent of whom are business travellers, come from 120 different countries. Our challenge is to let those people know about us before they arrive at Heathrow, so they choose us over taxis and other modes of transport.

We could use traditional marketing such as billboard advertising. But buying ad space in all 120 of those countries’ airports would be ruinously expensive.

The unique appeal of sevens is that it is global. The HSBC Sevens World Series is broadcast to 154 countries. Its events take place in some of our major feeder cities, like Hong Kong and Dubai. This gives us the global exposure we need. Remember, too, that sevens is now an Olympic sport.

Our partners, such as Cathay Pacific and Emirates, are also involved in sevens. As such, business meetings that might otherwise take months to arrange unfold effortlessly in the relaxed atmosphere of a rugby stadium.

The typical Twickenham-going fan is a 94 per cent demographic match for a Heathrow Express customer. From a UK perspective, that statistic alone makes our case for investing in rugby.

Rugby is also the fastest-growing sport in America, our biggest non-UK market. In 2014 nearly 10m Americans are forecast to pass through Heathrow. That is why we are sponsoring USA Rugby, who recently qualified for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. Finally, the values of sevens rugby – commitment, speed, reliability and respect – are exactly what are required to run a successful premium train service.

Time will tell whether this investment proves successful but the signs so far are good.

Follow our rugby journey at @hexrugby