Research Demonstrates Positive Impact on Player and Fan Experiences

 Johannesburg, South Africa, 20 September 2019: As Rugby World Cup 2019TM kicks off, worldwide partner Mastercard is celebrating the inclusive spirit and innovation that makes rugby a uniting force for fans and players around the world.

“Connecting with people through their passions is at the heart of how we bring Priceless to life all over the world,” said Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. “Sports have been an important part of that journey, and by using technology to enhance the experience for fans at the game, fans at home and players alike is how we are building emotional and culturally-relevant connections.”

With a recognition of the impact technology has on the fan experience, Mastercard today unveiled new changes to Player of the Match award. New for 2019, the Mastercard Player of the Match trophy blends Japanese heritage with cutting-edge technology, celebrating the first-ever Rugby World Cup™ in Asia.

The hardware features a sculptural origami design, inspired by the work of Professor Jun Mitani**, and will be finished live on the ground with in-the-moment laser etching reflecting highlights from the match. Monitoring fan activity on social media through a bespoke API – combined with commentary from the official worldfeed RWC 2019TM – Mastercard will select the top moments of each match to be immortalized on the trophy.

This unique storymaking approach enables players to take home a first-of-its-kind, truly priceless account of the match, so they can re-live moments of passion, excitement and sporting greatness.

 Technology leaves its mark on the field…

In a recent survey of sports fans, several impacts of technology were highlighted as improving the overall experience, both in-stadium and at home. Video replay came out as a fan favorite, with over 65% of South African respondents saying it was significantly improving sport.

South African rugby legend Bryan Habana agrees that “referring certain on field instances to the” TMO (Television Match Official) “has been crucial in making important, game changing decisions. We are seeing more of the correct decisions being made when instances of TMO involvement is introduced.”

And keeps fans close to the game

Technology has also played a role in how fans stay connected to the sport. Over (55%) of local respondents say social media and technology make them feel more connected to their favourite team, game and overall experience. South Africans are also united in their favorite motivational emoji, with 30% preferring to use the “cheers” emoji when tweeting about sport.

More than 50% of South African respondents will be watching the Rugby World Cup 2019™ on television at home,  while 14% say they will watch it live at a fanpark, restaurant or bar.

When asked why they like to watch rugby, over half (58%) of South Africans said they enjoy that it displays “equal parts physical and mental strength”, while 42% said it is the celebratory rituals and traditions that surround the game. These rituals include watching the game with friends and family while enjoying a traditional braai.

 Fans share their favorite displays of sportsmanship from rugby history

Seventy two percent of South African fans cited ex-South African Captain Francois Pienaar accepting the Rugby World Cup™  trophy from former president Nelson Mandela in 1995 as the greatest display of sportsmanship in rugby history. This was followed by the time Japan beat South Africa during the Rugby World Cup 2015™  and South African fans created a guard of honour, insisting Japanese fans got off the train first and cheering them as they did.

 Bringing the Experience to the Fans

In addition to Dan Carter and Bryan Habana, Mastercard is working with Joy Neville, Michael Leitch and Akihito Yamada as global ambassadors for Rugby World Cup 2019™ in Japan to bring fans closer to the games and sport they love.

This year, Mastercard will host its first-ever Priceless Surprise Twitter thread, a priceless chain of unexpected moments in unexpected places with unsuspecting people during the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup 2019™.  Fans can be a part of the experience by following Mastercard global ambassadors @DanCarter and @BryanHabana, @mastercard and #PricelessSurprise on Twitter.


Follow the conversation @MastercardMEA, #StartSomethingPriceless #RWC2019

Notes to editors:

Research data from a global survey by of 13,000 people across Great Britain, Republic of Ireland, Italy, France, South Africa, Argentina, Japan, Australia and New Zealand commissioned by Mastercard.

 About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.  Follow us on Twitter @MastercardNews, join the discussion on the Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau

About Rugby World Cup 2019TM

Rugby World Cup 2019TM in Japan is the ninth edition of rugby's showcase global event and the first in Asia. The world's top 20 national teams will play in 48 matches hosted across 12 match cities for the right to lift the Webb Ellis Cup and be crowned world champions. Rugby World Cup 2019Ô is the sport's financial engine, generating approximately 90 per cent of World Rugby'sTM revenues for reinvestment in the global game over the four-year cycle. The record-breaking success of England 2015 is enabling World RugbyTM to invest GBP £482 million at all levels of the game between 2016 and 2019, eclipsing the previous four-year cycle by 38 per cent, to ensure strong and sustainable growth. All the latest news can be found at and via @rugbyworldcup across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

**About Professor Jun Mitani

Dr. Jun Mitani is a professor of Information and Systems at University of Tsukuba undertaking research related to computer graphics. Born in Shizuoka in 1975, Mitani graduated from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering in 2004 and later graduated from the University of Tokyo, securing a doctorate in Engineering.

His early intrigue and fascination by paper-made handcrafts and computers lead to his current research theme. Mitani's research includes computational origami design, or simply, origami designing with computer software. The main research themes are shape modelling, computational geometry, computational paper and digital fabrication. Additionally, he has authored two books, "3D Origami Art (Nippon Critics)" and "Curve Origami Design (Nippon Critics)".
Birgit Deibele