Bridgestone's presenting sponsorship of the USA 7s is the strongest evidence yet that the tournament is successfully defining rugby's value in the American market.
In their enthusiasm, good rugby men tend to presume the US public will instantly understand, love, and support rugby events of any standard. In fact, in any commercial economy, and particularly the world's largest, the value proposition of goods must first be made intelligible to buyers; then the going rate is established when the buyer and seller agree a price.
February 22's nationwide ABC broadcast of the 7s, immediately following an NBA matchup between the champion Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, can be expected to magnify this progress. Like affiliation with household American brands, television plays a role in validating sporting events as mainstream culture and entertainment.
None of USARFU's efforts of the past five years compare to the 7s tournament's trajectory, including the RFU- and IRB-supported Churchill Cup. The 6-team tournament has featured bona fide drawing power in England, Ireland, and New Zealand sides, but hasn't covered the same ground.
Some domestic events have been taken the wrong direction, as with the decision to leverage the near-sellout popularity of the collegiate finals by staging the prelims in a ballon park remote from the fan base of 32 school XVs. And the union ran the 7s itself so poorly that after draining hard-won financial reserves, Boulder was forced to sell at a nearly calamitous loss.
By contrast, the privately managed tournament has vindicated its decision to abandon Los Angeles' Home Depot Center in favor of San Diego's Petco Park, and is now translating the product's appeal such that accountable businessmen are willing to associate withe the event in pursuit of their own aims.
Like USA Rugby''s National Guard deal, a rugby man quarterbacked the buyer's side of the agreement. Unlike the union's pact, however, the buyer didn't knock on the door but came in by result of the tournament's business-to-business marketing efforts.
We have always known there are many American businessmen who stand ready to help the game, provided they can do good by doing well in their day jobs. So it seems the 7s is not only rugby's standard setter in the marketplace, but also is bringing rugby men to rugby's top table.