More rugby coverage:The most popular global sporting event of the year kicks off in two weeks, and no, it’s not the 2007 NFL season or any soccer competition. It’s the Rugby World Cup.Most Americans and many others in other big TV markets like Germany are not even aware of the tournament. But global viewership is expected to reach new heights — we’re talking 4 billion — given that the sport has rapidly gained a passionate following outside its traditional hotbeds of the U.K. and the Southern Hemisphere.An event that takes place every four years like its soccer counterpart, the Rugby World Cup has gained in popularity thanks to the increased professionalism of the game in territories with long-established fan bases. That has led to the sport’s biggest stars getting advertising and sponsorship deals.England fly-half (a position similar to quarterback) Jonny Wilkinson, who dropkicked his team to the 2003 Rugby World Cup title, has been featured in Adidas commercials alongside soccer luminary David Beckham.And the U.S. national team, known as the Eagles, recently received a prominent sponsorship deal from Sony Corp. to promote the company’s Bravia line of high-end TV sets, another sign that the sport is capturing marketers’ imagination.Rugby’s growing… Read full this story
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