Fly-on-the-wall first for Lions and South Africa

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Gavin Mairs

The Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions and South Africa have struck a ground­break­ing deal to al­low film crews to make a fly-on-the-wall doc­u­men­tary fea­tur­ing footage from in­side both camps for the first time dur­ing next year’s tour.

The video di­ary of the Lions tour of South Africa in 1997 re­mains one of the most iconic sports doc­u­men­taries, and both par­ties hope that this new joint-ven­ture could land a lu­cra­tive broad­cast­ing deal.

Ama­zon Prime has al­ready en­tered the rugby mar­ket with a pro­duc­tion of New Zealand’s sea­son in 2017, while The Last Dance, Net­flix’s story of Michael Jor­dan’s bas­ket­ball ca­reer in the Nineties, has been one of the hit shows of the year.

Lions in­sid­ers are hop­ing the doc­u­men­tary could help cover the costs of the tour, which are ex­pected to be about £18mil­lion at a time when rugby’s fi­nances are un­der strain be­cause of Covid-19.

Video di­aries of Lions se­ries since 1997 have failed to repli­cate the com­mer­cial suc­cess of the orig­i­nal, but it is hoped the in­side story of the tour from the per­spec­tive of War­ren Gat­land’s squad and Jac­ques Nien­aber’s world cham­pi­ons will prove a hit.

It is un­der­stood the deal is part of a his­toric com­mer­cial part­ner­ship struck be­tween the Lions and the South African Rugby Union.

The tra­di­tional fi­nan­cial model of tours has been ripped up and the joint ven­ture will mean the Lions will rely less heav­ily on spon­sor­ship and will in­stead re­ceive ad­di­tional rev­enue streams from broad­cast rights, tick­et­ing, hos­pi­tal­ity and li­cens­ing.

It will give brands a ring-fenced spon­sor­ship en­vi­ron­ment, as for a World Cup or the Olympics, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that it would gen­er­ate greater rev­enue for the Lions and their hosts.

The Lions have pre­vi­ously se­cured their own spon­sor­ship deals, with Stan­dard Life pay­ing about £6.25 mil­lion for front-of-shirt rights on the tour of New Zealand in 2017.

The Lions com­mer­cial team for the tour of New Zealand at­tracted the sup­port of 18 com­pa­nies, which en­sured it re­turned a profit of more than £7 mil­lion, shared be­tween the four home unions.

Even in a pan­demic, the new model is ex­pected to de­liver a sig­nif­i­cant up­lift on 2017 val­ues for the Lions and South Africa.

Pre­vi­ously, the range of back­ers, aside from the big-ticket items of kit and shirt spon­sor, has var­ied from male grooming prod­ucts to al­co­holic drinks and re­cruit­ment con­sul­tancy ser­vices.

The Lions also gen­er­ate in­come from the sales of tour pack­ages to the ex­pected to­tal of 30,000 sup­port­ers who will travel to South Africa. Close to half buy pack­ages from Lions Rugby Travel, the in­house travel op­er­a­tor.

Be­fore 1991, no tour had made a profit for the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions, the wholly owned sub­sidiary of the four home unions, but the tour to South Africa in 2009 was the first com­mer­cial suc­cess.

In­side story: Will Greenwood in ac­tion dur­ing the Lions tour to South Africa in 1997, which was cov­ered in an iconic sports doc­u­men­tary

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