IF YOU WERE IN PARIS over the past two months, it would have been virtually impossible to miss the imposing sight of the Land Rover Defender. Whether it was sprawled across the city’s various billboards, or stationed close to some of Paris’ iconic cultural landmarks—or it was simply cruising around the city with the prestigious Webb Ellis Cup in tow—there was no missing the iconic British 4×4… or its ties to the game of rugby.
Land Rover Defender’s association with the game of rugby spans over 20 years, the automotive company one of the main sponsors of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Paris. As the world descended upon the City of Lights, Defender was there to provide an opportunity for guests, consumers and spectators to discover its vision of modern luxury and what the brand stands for today in a competitive luxury automotive market. Through a series of defining moments that spanned sport, gastronomy and storytelling (naturally, there was some driving involved, too), Defender executed one of the most successful campaigns in its rich history, a history that dates back to 1948.
For this year’s Rugby World Cup it all began with the notion of embracing the impossible. Leading this compelling tagline were six trailblazers who, above all else, defy the odds of what is possible. This multi-faceted campaign champions Defender and a diverse group of inspiring rugby stars in a stunning showcase of the beauty of diversity and inclusivity.
“The beautiful thing about the Defender brand is that it’s such a human brand with deep values and storytelling at its core,” says Lennard Hoornik, Jaguar Land Rover’s chief commercial officer, during a ceremony at Defender House, Paris. “And now, it’s really coming alive with everything that we do. We have a philosophy that everybody is a part of Defender, as a community.”
There was no better place in the world to feel the sense of ‘community’ than at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the third biggest sporting tournament in the world, played in front of thousands of spectators at the Stade de France from September to October. With all eyes on this sporting celebration, all eyes, in turn, were on Defender and its undeniable ties with the game of rugby.
“Rugby embodies determination, integrity, courage, and capability–core values for Defender,” said Philippe Robbrecht, Jaguar Land Rover executive director for France. “Our partnership and the bespoke Rugby World Cup France 2023 Trophy Car celebrate these shared values.”
Rugby World Cup 2023
Rugby is a perfect fit for the Defender brand as the two entities share a common thread in championing the human spirt. As such, Defender unveiled a number of hero-led stories throughout the tournament.
“It’s about durability, capability, teamwork, brute strength, a bit of muscle,” explains Laura Wood, JLR director of global brand, experience and collections. “We decided early on that Defender would own the rugby space and then outside of that, what we then did was looked at, where does Defender sit in culture? What’s its values? What’s its purpose? Where can it make a contribution? One of the big things that Defender has always had at its heart is that it’s a car with soul.”
The 2023 Rugby World Cup officially kicked off on September 8 and concluded on October 28 (with South Africa’s Springboks victorious over New Zealand’s All Blacks). To kick-off the spectacle, Land Rover hosted a special event at the Palais de Tokyo, headlined by the pioneering London-born rapper Kano. But the real hero of this exclusive launch party were the six Defender Trailblazers; modern-day rugby heroes who are changing the face of the game through a combination of determination, resilience and human spirit.
Six Defender Trailblazers who, akin to Defender, are triumphing over adversity and encouraging others to strive to achieve their full potential.
“The values shared by Defender and rugby are unquestionable. Famous for heroic capability and its unrivalled inner strength and determination to embrace the impossible, the Defender brand is appearing as never before on the global stage that is the Rugby World Cup,” said Hoornik. “It’s fantastic to be sharing the stories of our Trailblazers, modern-day heroes who have changed the face of the game, with fans the world over.”
The six heroes include Cyril Leroy, founder of the first LGBTQ+ friendly rugby club in France, Les Gaillards. Zainab Alema, advocate and role model for both female and Muslim rugby players. Ryuichi Nagayama, the 90-year-old rugby player for the Tokyo Fuwaku rugby team. Jacob Pickering, the 14-year old born with one arm pursuing his passion for rugby. Kylie Grimes, athlete and Paralympian who plays for the London Wheelchair Rugby Club. And Irtiqa Ayoub, national rugby champion who is defying cultural barriers in India.
Defender House Paris
Throughout the tournament, the Defender brand hosted exclusive guest experiences across three of its Defender Houses—Paris, Marseille and Nice all playing host to luxurious venues with Defender touch points dotted throughout. Land Rover has established this unique cultural offering in its Defender House, which allows guests to journey the world of Defender lifestyle through curated and exclusive experiences that truly underpin the Defender brand and its modern day fleet.
In Paris, guests were welcomed to experience the Defender House located just outside of the city at the Longchamps Racecourse in the 16th arrondissement. Combining premium hospitality offerings with the thrill of experiential driving, guests could choose their own Defender adventure at any time.
On the ground of the iconic racecourse, a make-shift Defender driving course was curated to put the Defender 110 P400e Electric Hybrid through its paces, offering consumers a glimpse of its full capabilities as an off-road weapon. Descending sharp (and steep) hills, drivers were instructed to rely fully on the Defender’s HDC (Hill Descent Control); in fact, you were asked to put your complete trust and faith in the Defender’s latest on-board technology as you rigorously completed the makeshift course. As guests negotiated 35-degree angles, on two wheels, over, across and under obstacles designed to emulate different terrain conditions, it was a truly invigorating—and adrenaline-inducing—experience but one that fully allows you to appreciate the performance and capabilities of the new Defender fleet.
To mark such a monumental sporting occasion, the Land Rover SV team designed a bespoke and exclusive Rugby World Cup 2023 Limited Edition Defender 110 plug-in electric hybrid, a star on Paris’ streets and cultural landmarks throughout the tournament. The Limited Edition Defender 110, exclusive to just 23 vehicles, is crafted to a unique specification, finished in Santorini Black with Gold exterior detailing, including bonnet script and alloy wheels, with embroidered headrests and blue interior stitching.
Made available exclusively to the French market throughout the duration of the Rugby World Cup, each vehicle is capable of driving in EV mode with zero tailpipe emissions for up to 51km.
The world of Defender
Since 1948, Defender has built a legacy of trust and expertise in the world of off-road capability. Purposefully designed, highly desirable and exceptionally durable, Defender is designed and engineered in the UK and is available in 90, 110 and 130 body styles, with up to eight seats, each owning a specific charisma. Now, as part of Land Rover’s vision of sustainability and modern luxury, Defender 110 is available as an electric hybrid model.