The 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC23) kicked off in France las week, and Defender, Land Rover's utilitarian model, is one of the partners of the event. It's one of the first examples of Land Rover's new brand strategy, where the model rather than the manufacturer takes prominence in any promotional efforts.
And Land Rover is going all-in for its association with RWC23. As well as the usual pitch-side signage, Land Rover has released a limited-edition Rugby World Cup 2023 Defender. Based on the five-door Defender 110, the unique specification of this model matches that of the RWC trophy car, a one-off Defender that has been taking the Webb Ellis Cup - the RWC winner's trophy - on a tour of France.
The limited-edition features Santorini Black paint with gold detailing, including gold script on the bonnet and gold wheels, while inside there are embroidered headrests and blue stitching for the upholstery. Only 23 World Cup Defenders will be built, and all will be sold in France.
As well as sponsorship and a limited-edition car, the Defender Trailblazers event celebrated pioneers of the sport at a one-off launch party at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris ahead of kick-off at the Rugby World Cup. The event paid homage to people that celebrate diversity in rugby, including 90-year-old Ryuichi Nagayama, a doctor who still plays rugby back in Japan; Cyril Leroy, the founder of the first LGBT+ friendly rugby club in France; Jacob Pickering (14) who hasn't let a congenital upper limb deficiency stop him playing; Muslim player Zainab Alema from Ghana; wheelchair rugby player and Paralympian Kylie Grimes; and Irtiqa Ayoub (28), who is introducing rugby to women in Indian Kashmir.
All of the participants have been immortalised at the RWC in sculptures made out of reclaimed steel from the Defender production line, with the subjects 3D scanned to ensure accuracy. The Trailblazers were celebrated at a launch night headlined by British rapper Kano, while Mark Cameron, Managing Director, Defender, said: "Defender pushes boundaries and enables people to achieve the exceptional. The show we are putting on for Defender to showcase our pride in being a Rugby World Cup 2023 Worldwide Partner is exceptional in itself, as we celebrate inspirational individuals - our Trailblazers - who embrace the impossible with their incredible inner strength and unstoppable spirit."
Youth rugby is also being promoted by Land Rover's Defenders of Tomorrow campaign. This again celebrates diversity and inclusivity, specifically at youth level, with 96 mascots taking to the field over the course of the RWC. These youngsters have been selected for their desire to change the world for the better, and play an active role in improving the lives of others around them.
The mascots, as well as officials and VIPs, will be transported to and from matches in a fleet of Defender 110 PHEVs that are being supplied for the Rugby World Cup.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup concludes with the final taking place at Stade de France on 28 October.