Just as sales of tennis racquets always go up in the UK after Wimbledon when mere mortals are inspired to play, thousands of rugby balls were being kicked around the day after the All Blacks' victory as kids all over New Zealand dreamed of becoming the next Beaver. And, in an effort to tap into the increased interest in the sport at all levels and, at the same time, prepare future stars for life in the professional era, NZ Rugby World and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRAP) are set to release a special annual publication dedicated to First XV rugby. First XV school rugby is basically the New Zealand equivalent of college football in the US and it has a big, loyal following. In many cases the rivalries—and spectators—are just as intense as provincial rugby and Sky catered to that demand when it started showing school games live on the Rugby Channel two years ago. But NZ Rugby World's publisher John Baker says it's an area of the game that deserves more attention—and an area of the game that also represents all that is good about the national sport.
"This concept is both exciting and timely," says Baker. "We expect this special issue to grab the attention of our regular reader base in addition to the school communities that surround the teams featured. It should be a real cracker, particularly off the back of the success of the grownups recently.”
Not surprisingly, retail sales of rugby-related magazines have had a massive boost recently, driven principally by a number of special executions from ACP (the official tournament guide and official tournament review) and Tangible (a NZ Rugby World special on Steinlager's All Blacks sponsorship and a RWC-related publication). So it makes sense from a publishing point of view—and also, as Tangible Media advertising sales director Matthew Pert says, from an advertising point of view.
“For brands wanting to target younger players, supporters and their families this is a must-consider opportunity," says Pert. "Early indicators from key advertisers have been incredibly positive and we fully expect this to become an annual feature on the NZ Rugby World calendar.”
The publication will go on sale in March 2012, and will be edited by supreme editor of the year Gregor Paul. Up-and-coming players, teams and coaches from the top 26 schools nationwide will be profiled and predictions of who to watch with the ‘1st First Xv’ team will also be made. But, as well as focusing on the sport itself, it's also something of an outreach programme for the NZRPA, with a range of content that aims to help those likely to be the rugby stars of tomorrow deal with things like agents, contracts, health, fitness and career development.
The special edition will also be supported by an NZRPA roadshow to the schools featured in the publication, with a high-profile player and player development manager tagging along to spread the oval-ball gospel.
Each member of the First XV visited and featured will receive a copy of the magazine and an additional 12,000 copies will be distributed through all leading sponsors and major retail outlets.
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