TikTok is the title sponsor of the Women's Six Nations from 2022-2025; they believe they can help bring a growing sport to a "growing audience". Tournament comes to a climax as England take on France in a title decider at Twickenham in front of a record crowd on Saturday April 29
Saturday 29 April 2023 12:25, UK
As record crowds prepare to descend on Twickenham when England take on France in the Women's Six Nations 2023 decider, the impact it will have for the future of the sport cannot be overlooked.
With every growing sport, there is a target to drive new audiences and the interest in this year's tournament culminates this weekend with a record crowd at Twickenham for England's decider against France, 53,000 tickets and counting have been sold for the clash.
The highest crowd prior to Saturday's match was 42,759 at Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup final last year between New Zealand and England, and in what will be the Red Roses' first standalone fixture at the home of rugby, content creators, collaborators, and future and former stars will all be on hand to capture a landmark moment for the sport.
The Rugby Football Union, O2, and the Women's Sport Trust teamed up earlier this year to help "close rugby's gender awareness gap" with three clear aims:
The dream of No.3, filling Twickenham Stadium, has been a longstanding one for the women's team that is about to be realised and captain Marlie Packer is ready for the "special moment" to arrive.
"For me, it's that pinch yourself moment," Packer said.
"I know the signs have been up on the M25 about an event at Twickenham on Saturday, and we've never had that before.
"To run out - I'm running out with my son as mascot as well - will be amazing. The energy, but the emotion behind it, we won't need to talk about that Saturday, it will just be there naturally because of the occasion that it is.
"But we need to go and perform. That's what we need to go there and do. We need an 80-minute performance to go away with that trophy. France aren't going to come here and let us walk over them. As a playing group, we're very aware of that.
"Yes, absolutely [that crowd can be the 16th player], that in itself is going to be a massive part to play in this.
"I've never played in front of that many people before. Obviously there was Eden Park [World Cup final], but this is something else again.
"For players that have never even trained or been at Twickenham, to run out on Saturday and have that crowd, is going to be a very special moment."
Starting in 2022, TikTok joined the Women's Six Nations as a title sponsor for four years, with the global platform helping show never before seen content from within the tournament, the Women's Six Nations account already flying past 100 million views from a "standing start".
Although a unique collaboration, a growing sport needs a growing audience, and through TikTok, that has certainly been reached.
After achieving such success in 2022, the aim in 2023 was a simple one: Grow those audiences even more.
With new found fans in America, France, and Italy, TikTok believed that this year's tournament would only bring the sport to even more people through their content.
However, to do that, you must "counterintuitively" insert rugby into the "broader cultural conversation" on the platform.
70% increase in match attendance
135% increase in television ratings
"One of the really interesting stats of last year was, not only had we helped them reach record-breaking audiences in France and Italy versus any other platform from a partner's perspective, but also in America where they saw record breaking Women's Six Nations viewership via the TikTok account," said Harley O'Dell, TikTok Sports Marketing Lead in Europe.
"You really start to reach new audiences and new fans when you don't just talk about the sport itself, which sounds counterintuitive, but to put rugby in the broader cultural conversation.
"So how does rugby play a part in culture, in music, in fashion, and beyond as well as what is happening on the pitch?
"I guess from the very start with Six Nations rugby, we really saw an opportunity to capitalise on the rise of rugby content on the platform.
"We really had an ambition with the partner to create an entirely new destination for rugby fandom online.
"On reflection, the Six Nations hashtag, which is used across both tournaments, that has grown from about seven million views to just over seven billion this year, so I think it is just showing there is an appetite for it."
With women's rugby exploding on the platform, there are creators who have made it count.
After starting her TikTok @theproplife during lockdown, Jemma Norton has gone on to be one of women's rugby's biggest creators on the platform and has been embedded into this year's tournament, bringing those "money can't buy experiences" to life.
For Norton, the excitement came from bringing the "joy" of the Women's Six Nations to a fresher audience at home.
"This year, I want to go into learning the facts and getting to know the characters, also keeping the classic humour behind it because we all like to have a bit of a giggle," said Norton.
"So it is just bringing the joy of the tournament into people's phones.
"I can bring aspects of the tournament right into people's pockets, for people who may not have been able to go to a tournament or go to a fixture or maybe not even have considered it before.
"It is bringing it to a fresh audience right from the sidelines and that is really exciting.
"People want to know the people behind the boots so it is letting people get to know those characters."
Not only does Norton think that the partnership with TikTok will help grow the women's game, but sees the long partnership as a lesson to other companies looking to invest in women's sport.
"Obviously the Women's Six Nations pages have grown massively and it is so much more normal to see women's rugby pop up on TikTok than it ever was before," she added.
"It is massive. A lot of investors come into women's sport to say that they have done it, whereas TikTok went 'we are going to put four years into this sport'.
"What that did was really raise the bar for other people investing in women's sport.
"It has been an absolutely phenomenal rise and having such a big platform behind the Women's Six Nations is only going to snowball it further."