Opel – the driving force behind Irish Rugby: Opel in Ireland signed a contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union in 2021 as a proud sponsor of Irish Rugby and Official Car Partner to the IRFU.

Together Standing Tall

Paris, October 14, 2023 – after a gruelling contest, pre-tournament favourites Ireland suffered a heart-breaking defeat against the legendary All Blacks from New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final. Only four months later, the team-in-green was back in France. This time in Marseille and this time in the Six Nations – an annual competition that sees the top six teams in Europe battle for continental bragging rights.

Europe’s rugby crown

Both teams went into the game with many questions to answer. How would they deal with the disappointment in the autumn showpiece? Could Ireland recapture the electrifying form that elevated them to the top spot in the world ranking? After 80 minutes of intense action, Ireland celebrated a well-deserved victory. And back-to-back wins in Dublin against Italy and Wales have put Ireland firmly in the driver’s seat in the competition. Now, the Irish nation holds its breath and excitement is bubbling before the final two matches against England (March 9) and Scotland (March 16) as the team sets its sights high on winning a second Grand Slam in a row in 2024, a first for any team in the history of the Six Nations.

Ireland’s players Garry Ringrose, Andrew Conway and Johnny Sexton celebrate during the Six Nations 2022 at Aviva Stadium.

Rugby quick guide

Commonly known simply as rugby union or more often just rugby, is a close-contact team sport that originated at Rugby School in England in the first half of the 19th century.

Six Nations Annual tournament contested by England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales

Grand Slam Title awarded to any team that wins all five of its games in the Six Nations.

Rugby 7s A version of rugby union. Teams consist of seven players and the halves last seven minutes.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s women’s 7s made history in Perth in late January, when they beat Australia to win the very first Irish men’s or women’s HSBC 7s rugby title ever. The star team is now preparing to represent Ireland, alongside the Irish men’s team, this summer at the Olympics, another first for Ireland.  But no matter what the results on the field, one thing remains consistent: Opel’s support for Irish rugby.

All Ireland in rugby fever

With over 60 percent of adults in Ireland (population 5.06m) citing themselves as rugby fans, Opel in Ireland, when approached by the IRFU, jumped at the opportunity to enter into a sponsorship agreement with Irish Rugby in 2021. Team Opel has steadily built an association with rugby ever since, enjoying the surge in popularity for the sport, as Ireland’s men’s XV’s team rose to the world’s number-one spot in ranking in 2023.

“The world of rugby is vast: Team Opel strives to underpin players, coaches, management and rugby fans all over Ireland.”

– James Brooks, Managing Director of Opel in Ireland – 

Basic knowledge

Global phenomenon Rugby union is a popular sport around the world, played by people regardless of gender, age or size. In 2023, there were more than 10 million people playing worldwide, of whom 8.4 million were registered players.

World Rugby Previously called the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) and the International Rugby Board (IRB), has been the governing body for rugby union since 1886, and currently has 116 countries as full members and 18 associate members.

Basics In its most common form, a game is played between two teams of 15 players each, using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field called a pitch. The field has H-shaped goalposts at both ends.

As the official car partner, Opel benefits from the many aspects of the partnership, each time tapping into and exploring more angles, creating stories, and finding new audiences to support. James Brooks, Managing Director of Opel in Ireland, explains: “The world of rugby is vast and comprises many different elements. From the national men’s and women’s XVs teams to the growing phenomenon of 7s rugby, from minis to U20s and seniors, from grassroots club level right up to provincial, national and international level, Team Opel strives to underpin players, coaches, management and rugby fans all over Ireland. There are huge opportunities for sponsors to grab at every juncture in rugby.”

From TV to social media

Official figures show almost 2.8 million adults watched TV coverage of the Six Nations 2023, and 11 of the top 20 most viewed programmes on Irish television were rugby matches. Around the world, the 2023 tournament was followed by around 120 million viewers in total. Over 2.7 million fans follow Irish Rugby on social channels.

Home games in Aviva Stadium attract up to 52,000 fans; the perfect platform on which to launch or promote a new Opel model.

Strategically, whilst not title sponsors on the jerseys, Opel is therefore very active during the campaign each spring, in terms of advertising, social media, and in-game activation. Each home game at Aviva Stadium sees up to 52,000 fans in attendance and becomes the perfect platform on which to launch or promote new models; the new Opel Corsa is the star of this year’s Six Nations campaign, promoted during the 3 home games in the official game programmes, on the big-screen in Aviva Stadium, on pitch-side LED screens, on Opel social media channels, on handpicked billboards located around the pitch. The “Yes of Corsa” central campaign creative lends itself beautifully to the local Opel rugby campaign.

Focus on women’s rugby

The brand has placed particular emphasis on supporting women’s rugby from the very start of the partnership and now boasts four female international player brand ambassadors. Amee Leigh, Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood and Beibhinn Parsons, along with their 7s comrades will represent Ireland at the Olympics this summer in Paris. Meanwhile, Linda Djougang and her XVs colleagues will compete at the Six Nations women’s campaign in April.

Opel first appointed Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe (left) in 2021, then Stacey Flood in 2022 as Opel brand Ambassadors.
Linda Djougang, Irish XVs player, has enjoyed her Opel brand ambassador role in her new Mokka since 2023.
Beibhinn Parsons, Opel brand ambassador and Irish international, drives a Corsa Electric since early 2024.

Emma Toner, Marketing Director at Opel in Ireland, said: “Women’s sport in general is still very much untapped, though more and more companies are now sitting up and paying attention. We saw a massive opportunity, very early in our rugby partnership, to embed Opel right at the heart of women’s rugby, at a time when other corporates didn’t have it on their radar, and what better way to do that than to appoint female brand ambassadors. We’ve been on a journey with these four incredible athletes, supporting them through tough times, and bathing in the limelight during their recent successes.”

Guest at Opel events

Opel not only supports the brand ambassadors with vehicles, the players appear as guest speakers at shows and dealer conferences. “We are honouring them at our internal staff receptions, all strategic actions designed to help drive awareness of women in rugby in Ireland, for which our ambassadors are very grateful. We supported the Women’s Tag Rugby Team at the World Cup in 2023 and we are also hosting Irish Rugby women’s networking events around the country in 2024, opening more opportunities for us to speak directly to new customers”, adds Emma Toner.

Opel proudly supported the Irish Women’s Open Tag Rugby Team in the summer of 2023.

“We saw a massive opportunity, very early in our rugby partnership, to embed Opel right at the heart of women’s rugby.”

– Emma Toner, Marketing Director at Opel in Ireland – 

How to score points

Try Worth five points. Awarded when the attacking team has successfully grounded the ball behind the opposing team’s goal line.

Conversion After the try, the attacking team has the chance to raise the score by a further two points with a successful kick at the goal. The ball must travel between the goal posts to be considered successful.

Penalty Awarded by the match official to penalise deliberate infringements. The team who did not commit the infringement is given possession of the ball and may either kick it towards touch (in which case the ball back rule is waived), attempt a place kick at goal, or tap the ball with their foot and run it.

Scrum For minor offences, the match official decides on a scrum. Eight players at a time try to push the opposing team away in a crouched position in order to win the free ball.

The brand with the Blitz provides IRFU staff, from the management and coaches to nutritionists and sports psychologists, with a fleet of over 100 Opel vehicles spanning all models across the range, including Opel light commercial vehicles, and today, over 23% of the fleet is electrified. To showcase the driving force behind Irish Rugby, and indeed the diverse roles the talented IRFU staff who drive our vehicles hold, Opel in Ireland is currently shooting a series of videos entitled “It Takes a Nation. It Takes Everyone.” The docu-series gives a unique insight into the people and team behind the players and is attracting much attention from rugby fans and pundits, racking up hundreds of thousands of views each episode.

Basic grassroots level

From a very basic grassroots level, Opel has supplied hundreds of branded rugby balls to local clubs around Ireland, under a programme entitled “Driving The Passion”. The feedback on social media has been phenomenal with dozens of clubs contacting the brand asking for donations and tagging Opel on social media on receipt of the balls. The journey won’t stop here. Opel will continue to drive the rugby partnership on in 2024, constantly finding new angles and opportunities to embed the brand in Irish life. #DriveOn.

March 2024

Photos: Opel Irland, ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo