NBC Sports, Penn Mutual, United World Sports extend partnership

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The NBC Sports Group, the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company and United World Sports announced Thursday an extension to their partnership through 2019. Under the terms of the deal, Penn Mutual will hold the title sponsorship to both the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship — the largest collegiate rugby event in the world — and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup — the national championship for 15-a-side rugby.

The deal, which initially began in 2014, also includes a significantly expanded year-round presence across NBC Sports Group and UWS rugby properties, as well as dedicated coverage of the women’s Collegiate Rugby Championship final and expanded marketing connections to colleges and universities through Rhino Rugby, the official equipment and apparel provider.

“We remain bullish about rugby as both a collegiate and an Olympic property,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “2016 is going to be an exciting year for the sport, highlighted by its return to the Olympics in Rio this August. We’re thrilled to showcase the best rugby at the collegiate and international levels this year, and we believe Penn Mutual’s commitment to the CRC and Varsity Cup demonstrates rugby’s upward trend in domestic popularity in the coming years.”

This year’s men’s CRC will feature a field of teams from across the country, as well as the winners of four 2016 qualifying event. The University of California is the three-time defending champion on the men’s side.

“Our initial partnership far exceeded our expectations, and we are very excited to be able to work with UWS and NBC Sports to expand and extend our agreement,” said Eileen McDonnell, Penn Mutual’s Chairman, President & CEO. “We continue to grow our offerings and find new ways to reach the next generation of advisors and clients, and rugby has proven to be an extremely effective platform in reaching our objectives.”

Rugby Sevens returns to the Olympics for the 2016 Rio Games, following a 92-year hiatus. The United States won the last gold medal in that event at the 1924 Games, and the CRC is part of a nationwide effort to build American rugby talent in anticipation of the Games. Fifteen players who played in the CRC went on to play for the U.S. national team in the past four years.