By Gary Anderson

IRB chief executive Brett Gosper has said Olympic inclusion was not the sole factor behind name change ©Getty ImagesThe global exposure afforded by the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was not the sole factor behind the International Rugby Board's (IRB) decision to rebrand itself as World Rugby, according to chief executive Brett Gosper.

The IRB announced yesterday it will adopt a new brand and logo at the World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in London later this year in a move it claims better reflects rugby's new standing in world sport.

The idea of rebranding was first explored about a year ago, according to Gosper, during a period of "strategic reflection" that involved a number of discussions between the members of the 27-strong IRB Council before a unanimous vote in May ratified the name change.

"The name change will give greater clarity as to the purpose of the organisation of World Rugby and greater clarity and coherence across all our brand assets and properties," Gosper told insidethegames.

"The goal of the brand change was to reflect where we have come from as a brand and how big we are globally and what is going to best equip us in terms of positioning to globalise and go forward.

"The general conclusion was that we are looking for a brand that was more understandable and more inclusive and says more about the mission than the people behind the mission.

"Something which moved us more towards the inspirational rather than the regulatory."

The IRB name and logo will be replaced with World Rugby in November this year ©Getty ImagesThe IRB name and logo will be replaced with World Rugby in November this year ©Getty Images

The decision to rebrand comes 16 years after the then International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) - originally formed by the Unions of Scotland, Wales and Ireland in 1886 - changed its name to the International Rugby Board in 1998.

But Gosper revealed there was a feeling that the IRB can be construed as just a group of decision makers rather than the sport itself and when the name is read in full it suggests a limited remit rather than the World Rugby statement which he claims reflects "the global size and remit of rugby".

"With the properties of rugby such as the World Cup, Sevens Series, the Olympics and the growth of women's rugby, [there is a] need to connect with current audiences and new audiences in a way that they understand where communications are coming from and to make sure that all our properties look like they are coming from the same family," said Gosper.

"It seemed to us that as well as that reflection and the brand that goes with it, we also felt that a name change would help us in that the IRB is completely unfathomable to someone who is not in the rugby fraternity.

"If you're on a global conquest strategy then that's going to be a problem and an obstacle.

"As a reflection of a global brand this is the right time to do this."

The rebrand will have no impact on Rugby World Cup 2015 branding or positioning ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe rebrand will have no impact on Rugby World Cup 2015 branding or positioning ©AFP/Getty Images

The IRB has claimed that participation in rugby has grown by more than two million in the past four years with around 6.6 million players playing the game.

This has been driven by the commercial success of the Rugby World Cup, the IRB's development strategies and record investment as well as the strength of its 100 full member unions and 18 associate members.

The new name and logo will begin "impacting" on the Rugby World Cup brand after next year's tournament in England and Wales and on the Rugby Sevens World Series at the start of the 2015 -2016 season, according to Gopser.

As well as the strength of the IRB's marquee tournaments the sport has been further boosted by the inclusion of rugby sevens  on the Olympic programme for Rio 2016.

Gosper stressed that the decision to rebrand was not solely down to the inclusion of the sport on the Games programme - it was voted in by the International Olympic Committee in 2009 - but did admit that the name change was partly designed to help grow the markets that Olympic exposure would open up.

"The Olympics is playing its role as an eye-opener in terms of how we could connect better with new audiences," said Gosper, who last month warned that rugby sevens "needs to get it right" to ensure that it  is kept on the Olympic programme beyond Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

"When you're dealing in new geographies and new demographics then the name World Rugby is very simply said and it says who we are and what our mission is."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related Stories
August 2014: 
International Rugby Board to rebrand as World Rugby in time for Rio 2016
July 2014: We need to get Rio 2016 right to guarantee rugby sevens Olympic future, warns IRB chief