The Rugby World Cup Kicks Off in Japan to the Delight of Fans in Europe, South Africa and New Zealand

Results from global research highlights only 15% of Japanese consumers are “big fans”

ITWP - Harris Interactive & Toluna

London, UK — 20 September 2019 — A joint survey conducted by ITWP companies Harris Interactive, a full-service digital consultative market research agency, and Toluna, a leading consumer intelligence platform that delivers insights on demand, found that despite this year’s Rugby World Cup taking place in Japan, almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the native respondents have no interest in the sport of Rugby Union. Instead, the research shows excitement among rugby fans in Great Britain, with 51 percent of viewers planning to tune in to all matches, and in other regions of the world. Access to these results were driven by Toluna’s QuickSurveys platform, which enables entry to niche, hard-to-reach markets around the world.

The report targeted 4,400 members of the public, across regions including Europe (Great Britain, France and Italy), Asia Pacific (Japan, Australia and New Zealand), South America (Argentina) and Africa (South Africa). The results found that while one-fifth of Great Britain’s citizens self-identify as “big fans” of Rugby Union, other markets including South Africa (37 percent) and New Zealand (33 percent) have an even greater presence of Rugby Union fans. While the host nation, in contrast, claims just 15 percent of consumers who categorize themselves as “big fans” of the sport. However, overall awareness is high, with 84 percent of Japanese consumers knowing that the tournament is taking place.

“It’s estimated that more than 6 million people enjoy rugby worldwide. Reaching fans in countries across four continents, in multiple languages and in multiple time zones is a difficult task that requires broad expertise and refined technologies,” said Lee Langford, research director and sports specialist at Harris Interactive UK. “With a panel community of more than 30 million members, Harris and Toluna delivered the thoughts and opinions of these disparate fans in less than 36 hours to arm marketers with a better understanding as to where ad dollars could be best spent during the tournament.”

Over 15 percent of the public across all markets will likely watch all or most matches, with as many as 44 percent of viewers planning to tune in to all matches featuring their favourite team. This figure rises to 51 percent for viewers in Great Britain, where many of the games will be broadcast very early in the morning, and is highest in South Africa (63 percent). Only 32 percent of Japanese viewers believe they will watch all of Japan’s matches in the tournament.

Unlike the FIFA World Cup, respondents indicated that global productivity will not take a hit during the rugby tournament. Only 12 percent of fans overall said they are likely to take a “sickie” (call in sick to work or college), yet this figure rises to 16 percent in South Africa and 20 percent in Australia. At only 8 percent, Kiwis are least likely to call in sick. Interestingly, Japanese workers are also above average on this question, with 14 percent willing to skip work for a day to support the host nation.

Japanese consumers are quite positive about the impact of the tournament, 22 percent believing it will improve Japan’s standing on the world stage. More concretely, 17 percent of survey participants across other markets said they are more likely to visit Japan in the future specifically because it can stage a major global event like the Rugby World Cup. The tournament is also slated to benefit the Japanese economy by around 217 billion yen (US $ 1.5 billion), and the results bode well for the Olympic Games that will be held in Tokyo in summer 2020.

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About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is a full service, consultative, digital market research agency. We are responsive, agile and committed to our clients’ success above all. We have a long history of helping brands succeed and we continuously innovate new means for obtaining insight. We set ourselves apart as we fuse sector expertise and award winning research designs with innovative tools and technology to deliver impactful, actionable insights that keep our clients ahead of what’s next.

Expert in all areas of research design, implementation, analysis, and reporting, Harris Interactive has particular strengths in brand, new product development, customer and employee research. Working internationally, our activities span both consumer and business to business markets.

At Harris our legacy, expertise and relationships made us who we are but technology drives our future and speed of delivery allows us to anticipate challenges. In short, we enable our clients to make impactful decisions faster..

About Toluna

Toluna provides consumer insights designed to empower success in today’s on-demand, global economy. Powered by the perfect fusion of technology, expertise, and the largest global community of influencers at the ready, Toluna delivers rich, reliable, real-time insights to individuals, and companies of all sizes.

Our automated consumer insights platform, TolunaInsights™ underpins everything we do. Clients can access the platform directly, leverage Toluna’s managed services, or create fully-customized digital consumer insights programs via our engineered services.

Toluna is committed to promoting Insights on Demand, an entirely new way for businesses to obtain insight and understand constantly shifting consumer sentiment and taste in the on-demand economy. Toluna is a founding member of the Insights on Demand Consortium, a multilateral group that’s advancing the principles and adoption of Insights on Demand. The company has 24 offices globally spanning Europe, North America, South America, Asia Pacific, and MENA.


  • Rugby
  • Rugby Japan
  • World Cup