Owning events on air – The Rugby World Cup 1999 in South Wales

The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (Welsh: Stadiw...
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The 2011 Rugby World cup is now fully underway in New Zealand.

Back in 1999, it came to South Wales. It was an unusual championship, since not all of the matches were actually played in South Wales. In fact, some were played in England. One thing that struck me about the Welsh rugby fans, when I moved to Cardiff in 1998, was their passion for the game and their huge sense of National pride.

This event gave Red Dragon FM a huge opportunity. We had NO rights to be associated with the rugby world cup. And we never claimed to have any rights. But it was an event that took over the city, South Wales and was a huge topic of conversation.

At the start of the year, we had a huge brainstorm about what we could and couldn’t do. We had a rolling planner detailing key dates, key events and a countdown to the start of the championship. And of course, it provided a brilliant sales opportunity – both for sponsorship and for the sales team to book rugby related commercials,

We commissioned printed banners – one side saying “TRY” and one side saying “MISS” – both sides heavily branded – which were given out in their thousands during the first few matches. The result was that almost every time there was a goal or a miss, there were shots on TV across Wales, across the UK and around the world of the Red Dragon FM logo. In fact, if imitation is the best form of flattery, we ended up being banned from giving these cards out, and some of the key sponsors introduced them for later matches.

On air, things started early. We started counting down to the championships every day, early in the year. We already had good relationships with the Welsh Rugby Union, a number of the rugby team had connections with the radio station and the contacts with the local authorities put us in a good position to get relevant permissions to do things.

Each match day, we broadcast live from outside the millennium Stadium. We had teams of promotional crew giving out material. And we recorded hundreds of vox pops with Welsh listeners, which we used in all our imaging and promos. And we updated these daily, if not hourly, particularly after a great win or a heavy defeat. Prior to the World Cup, we recorded interviews with a large number pf the Welsh squad. We used these in news bulletins, within promos and they also guest hosted the “Top 10 at 10” on match days – picking their songs and describing their thoughts as they prepared for the big games.

As the campaign progressed, we even created a long form production piece that played a couple of times a day, featuring vox pops of players and fans. I very much doubt whether it’s the sort of thing that would sit comfortably on air on many stations these days. But there are some elements that would still work…

Never underestimate the power of passionate, vocal listeners. I’d never argue for using them simply to get voices on air, but when there’s a reason, it can be very powerful. I’m looking forward to hearing some great examples from the other side of the world in the weeks to come..

One thought on “Owning events on air – The Rugby World Cup 1999 in South Wales

  1. AH Red Dragon FM! It once was a great station with its own identity but radio (as with tv) things have all been centralised for budget reasons and nothing else. The technology has improved to allow things like this to happen and say a 3 hour radio show to be recorded in 30 minutes!

    Andrew Jones is the main anchor now on the Daybreak Wales News and ITV Wales News on ITV1. I remember growing up hearing Tara Eugene, Juliet Piper, Phil Suarez to name a few!

    At least we are a capital city here and it sorta makes sense to rename us Capital! Not too sure whether it works elesewhere mind!

    Happy New Year,


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