PR and Sport… British and Irish Lions…

It’s often said that you shouldn’t put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t like being read in a court of law or published on the front page of a newspaper. It would appear that the same applies to internal training videos. You have probably by now read, and possibly seen, the San Francisco 49’ers contentious media training video.

That introduction is a feeble attempt on my behalf to create a segue to the rest of this post which is completely off-topic.

PR is clearly becoming a more important element of professional sport. It’s importance isn’t just for a specific team or player, but good and bad PR reflects the sport as a whole.

This weekend the British & Irish Lions kick-off their much anticipated tour of New Zealand. The Lions are a rugby team (for the unitiated rugby has similarities with American Football but doesn’t have all the advertising breaks or the safety equipment) drawn from the best players from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Every four years, since 1888, these players come together to play a series of matches against New Zealand, Australia or South Africa.

This year’s tour is to the home of world rugby, Andy Lark’s beloved New Zealand.

Rugby only turned professional (officially) twelve years ago and the fear was that traditions such as the Lions would be lost in a climate of professionalism. What’s happened is the opposite, the Lions tour has turned into a massive sporting and commerical event. For example, the Lions jersey is now globally the second best selling replica jersey for Addidas (only second to the Real Madrid soccer team).

They are taking their PR seriously as well. After a number of major faux-pas on the last tour to Australia four years ago, they have brought in arguably one of the best known PR people in Europe, none other than Tony Blair’s beloved Alastair Campbell.

The Lions are a great example of nations putting their differences aside to create a team that mixes different nationalities for a common cause. They travel more in hope than expectation but in the words of former English captain John Pullin:

“We may not be very good, but at least we turn up.”

C’mon the Lions…