Posts Tagged ‘sports sponsorship’

Sponsoring sport’s a risky business but GAA might be the exception

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015


Ballygowan & Energise Sport Unveiled as New Official Hydration Partners of Dublin GAA

 Soccer’s in the spotlight again, but for all the wrong reasons.  As FIFA descends into corruption chaos, the aftershocks to the sport’s sponsors are catastrophic.  Soccer’s goodwill and the halo effect that attracted the brands to FIFA in the first instance is depleting rapidly as the news story takes hold.

Sponsoring sport always carries a risk, but usually when individual stars are involved – hence many brands’ preference for sporting categories rather than heroes.  Thorough risk assessment pre-signing is not just prudent it’s also pragmatic, allowing concerns and caveats to be aired at the outset.

Few sports are beyond reproach, especially as sport has now been elevated to the heady heights of God-like achievement and aspiration.  To many, clubs are like a religion to be followed and adored with passion, which is why certain clubs and sports attract such willing investors, but at what price and at what risk?

The GAA may just be the exception, as a brand and a sport that is reasonably removed from adverse publicity.  I’m not suggesting it’s squeaky clean in publicity terms, but it courts less chaos than other sporting factions.   There is still all the zeal, the pious fervour and the commitment that brands want to emulate, but with more opportunities – from local, to families, to national events – and less exposure.

And, with the smell of freshly cut grass in the air, summer is when GAA really comes into its own as the memory of the National Leagues fade into obscurity and Championship fever kicks in.

According to the Onside Industry Survey 2015, GAA is seen to offer the best ‘va


lue for money’ in terms of Irish sponsorships and this is the case for many reasons – not least of all is the relevance of GAA at local community and county level.  It could be argued that the ordinary ‘man on the street’ identifies with GAA stars more so than other sports stars, for an array of reasons, including the likelihood of seeing these players active in their local communities (not just on the telly!), recognising the level of dedication and commitment that’s required of amateur players, and an appreciation of the skill level of a truly unique sport.

Sponsorship is more than just a logo on a county jersey.  Sponsors demand more and the Championship delivers: providing players and management for media events, engaging with the sponsor’s own business and CSR initiatives; and offering exclusive competition prizes, can all be effective methods of maximising the value and impact of such a sponsorship asset. Experiential activity too has proven itself as a way of extracting additional value, using the available properties to leverage the brand in the eyes of existing and potential customers.

The digital space and access to social media channels adds a further important platform to sponsors. Building up digital content is an extremely effective method of engaging fans and reinforcing the association between brand and sponsor.

It’s important to consider some simple guidelines from the outset to maximise GAA sponsorships.  These include:

–          Undertaking a pre-sponsorship appraisal to ensure the sponsorship fits as part of an overall strategy and assess potential risks involved

–          Establishing a good relationship with all relevant stakeholders

–          Ensuring goals and objectives are outlined and agreed at the outset of the partnership

–          Creating an activity road map for the season

–          Focusing on digital elements to maximise social media and online channels

The arrests of senior FIFA officials has rocked the sporting world. Not only does this news obviously impact on the organisation itself, it will also have shocked existing sponsors to their core.

The GAA, whilst not beyond reproach is arguably in a safer position and less likely to bring your brand into disrepute than other sports which exist on a global scale yet having a risk assessment completed will make things a lot easier if crisis strikes.

The rallying cry from inter-county managers and coaches alike is Championship-focused encouragement. Tough winter training regimes and physical League encounters will have honed the players’ fitness levels but it’s the coming months that will define the teams and the GAA public can’t wait!  Shouldn’t your brand be part of the excitement?

The Greatest Sports Show on Earth?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

As a keen football fan it’s always been World Cups and European Championships which have excited me most in terms of international sports tournaments, and indeed I rate my trip to USA 94, and in particular a certain goal scored against Italy in Giants Stadium, as one of my all time favourite sporting memories.  The main attraction these football tournaments hold for me over other tournaments is the familiarity of the names involved and the anticipation of seeing them all on the same stage together.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the Olympic Games in London, and what a treat it was! I’ve always enjoyed watching the Olympics, complete with its incredible variety of events, and amazing stories of inspiring success and heartbreaking failure, however, to be in London to witness it first hand was an absolute privilege. It also changed the way I look at international sporting tournaments.

By Barney Moss from London, UK (The Forging of the Rings Uploaded by BaldBoris) via Wikimedia Commons

The thing that got me most about the Olympics was its sheer scale, there was so much to see that hard choices and strategic plans were the order of the day, unfortunately it just wasn’t possible to get it all in, no matter how hard we tried. Nonetheless, even allowing for the fact that you were almost certainly missing great Olympic moments taking place elsewhere, you could be happy in the knowledge that there was plenty you did get to see.  A case in point being the first Tuesday of the games, when having sat in Wimbledon Centre Court for an afternoon watching Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray in action we could have been forgiven for thinking that was as good as it got, only to find ourselves a few hours later watching Michael Phelps achieve Olympic immortality!

Over the course of 17 glorious days I witnessed some of the greatest sporting moments of our lifetime, Michael Phelps being crowned the “Greatest Olympian” ever, Usain Bolt becoming the first man to win 100m and 200m gold at successive Olympics, Katie Taylor’s sensational gold and more besides.  However, quite aside from those famous moments, I witnessed athletes from all over the world give absolutely everything to reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport, and more importantly earn the right to call themselves an Olympian.

By Steven Lewarne via Wikimedia Commons

With my professional hat on and having worked on an Olympic sponsorship programme for one of my clients over the last few years I had more than a passing interest in the commercial side of London 2012. Experiencing the various sponsor activation plans around the Olympic Park and throughout London was fascinating, be it the largest McDonalds in the world, Panasonics Full HD 3D Theatre, Coca Cola’s Beat Box, Acer’s Journey or BT London Live not to mention the high impact print and outdoor advertising campaigns run by Olympic sponsors such as Visa (Usain Bolt), Adidas and others, one thing was abundantly clear, the Olympic games are big business. The extent to which sponsors activated on the ground to drive their objectives was hugely impressive and was testament to the effect that sponsoring the Olympic Games can have on public perception and brand development. It will certainly be interesting in the coming months to examine the research around these activations to try and ascertain the sponsorship winners and losers of London 2012


Cadbury 2012 House in Hyde Park

Whilst I’ve touched on the fact that sponsors clearly see a benefit in being associated with the Olympics, what is also clear is, how important a role sponsorship plays in the development of the athletes themselves. Far away from the Usain Bolt’s and Michael Phelps of this world, for most athletes securing the necessary funding to be able to realise their dream can be one of the biggest challenges they face and sponsorship of any size shape or form is not just appreciated but in many cases a requirement. A heart warming example from London 2012 was Team GB’s Women’s Volleyball team who after they had their funding slashed a little over two years ago were forced to quit jobs and sell houses so they could all relocate to Sheffield and train together. Or closer to home, talk to any Irish athletes about their struggles to fund the training and coaching required to compete on the same level as their better resourced International counterparts and your eyes will be opened immediately. In the absence of 100% funding from their sporting organisations and governments, athletes rely on commercial sponsorship agreements to give them the funding security required to be the best they can be.

It was this particular element of London 2012 which struck me deepest, whilst as nearly all the footballers who compete in the World Cup or European Championships can return home to the safety of their clubs and a regular wage, many Olympic athletes will return home to uncertainty about their sporting and financial future.  Only when you begin to comprehend everything that these athletes have been through and what they have put on the line just to participate in the Games can you really start to appreciate why the Olympics truly is the “Greatest Sports Show on Earth”.

Darragh Rea

Darragh provides sponsorship support to a range of clients including Cadbury who are the Official Treat Provider to the Irish Olympic and Paralympic Teams



Cadbury Ireland Brings Back the Spirit of Play with €15m Marketing Campaign

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Cadbury Ireland today launches its biggest ever marketing initiative – with an unprecedented marketing and communications spend of €15million, which aims to get people of all ages and walks of life to play games again. Young and old, people in villages and in towns, able-bodied and disabled people will be encouraged to play games and challenge each other.

To underpin the launch Cadbury Ireland has carried out an extensive body of research* into the importance of play, and game-playing in particular, across all age groups and is working closely with children’s psychologist David Coleman on this initiative.

In 2008, Cadbury became the Official Treat Provider to the London 2012 Olympic Games. As a result of this sponsorship, Cadbury sought to develop a programme which reflected the true spirit of the Olympics and game-playing itself, and thus the concept of Spots v Stripes was born, as a means of re-igniting the spirit of play in everyone – a big game that the whole country can play.

The game invites everyone to divide into two teams (either Spots or Stripes) and play any type of game in order to score points towards an overall national team total. The game will run until 2012, but Cadbury hopes the legacy of playing will last much longer. Spots v Stripes hopes to be the longest most inclusive game ever, one which will capture the imagination of people across towns and villages across Ireland.

Spots v Stripes is an ambitious and exciting campaign which will be the biggest programme ever undertaken in Cadbury’s history, and as such Cadbury has embarked on its largest and most integrated marketing campaign ever, involving sponsorship, advertising, digital, PR, events, CSR and sales promotion channels.  Other key Irish agency partners include Carat, Publicis QMP, and Ogilvy One.

The campaign, kicks off today with the launch of the website, which will challenge people to play games on a daily basis, and the new TV advertising campaign began on Saturday 7 August, which will air for 8 weeks, with a media plan including 90 second, 60 second and 30 second spots.

The advert, created by the agency Fallon, and developed in conjunction with PR agency partners in Ireland and the UK, including MCsquared in Dublin and Pretty Green in the UK, aims to show there’s a playful spirit in all of us, just waiting to be awoken. For a company renowned for the likes of Gorilla and Eyebrows campaigns it is perhaps no surprise that the film does so, by taking a less than conventional approach to tell the story.

Featuring two teams of fish characters, one spotty and one stripey, the film shows a dramatic underwater game unfolding between the two teams! The CGI characters for the film were painstakingly created by The Moving Picture Company over 8 months and placed on a real coral reef backdrop filmed in Egypt.

Cadbury Ireland has been running a colleague and ambassador engagement programme since May to help build a groundswell of support for the idea ahead of the official launch today. Since May, over five thousand people have already played and can be seen in action on two dedicated facebook pages – and

In addition to this, Cadbury will have a team of purple Spots v Stripes Games Ambassadors who will be touring the country bringing the games to every corner of the island of Ireland, visiting a number of Universities, Events and Festivals encouraging the playing of games of all sorts.

Each of the Spots v Stripes Games Ambassadors will have a toolkit which will include information on traditional games, games from other cultures, games for people of all ages and abilities.

Aside from the above, Cadbury will be running nationwide consumer promotions, and working closely with their retail customers to tailor specific Spots v Stripes programmes to their specific needs.

Commenting on Spots v Stripes, Brian O’Sullivan, Managing Director, Cadbury Ireland said “At Cadbury, play is a huge part of our heritage, dating back to when the Cadbury brothers first set up the company. Believing that business can be a force for good, we pioneered the value of recreational time – and we continue to invest in sustaining our communities. We believe that getting together to play games can help build bridges between people of different backgrounds, cultures and ages. We hope through Spots v Stripes to create a social movement that inspires the country to play more games in the lead up to and beyond Olympic Games in 2012”

Greta Hammel, Head of Marketing, Cadbury Ireland added “After two years of preparation, we are delighted that Spots v Stripes finally gets to see the light of day. This hugely complex initiative has involved all of our teams working together, on a scale that has never been seen before at Cadbury, to launch something which we really hope will capture the public’s imagination. We hope that everybody is inspired by some part of our campaign to try something different – with so much to come, we hope everyone finds a reason to get involved!”

For more information visit or visit either of the dedicated campaign pages on Facebook – or

Heineken Italy Scherzo Auditorium stunt

Monday, June 28th, 2010

The winners of the Cannes Lion awards have been announced, including one of our favourite marketing stunts from last year. Heineken Italy won a Gold promo Lion, Gold PR Lion, a Silver Direct Lion and a Bronze Direct Lion for their Scherzo Auditorium stunt. The stunt involved 50 university professors, 100 girlfriends, bosses and journalists who persuaded 1,136 students, boyfriends, employees and colleagues to attend a classical music concert on the same night as the Champions League soccer match between Real Madrid and AC Milan. Fifteen minutes into the concert, as the football fans became more anxious about missing the match, Heineken broadcast a message on the screen above the performing string quartet which read “Hard to say no to your boss, isn’t it? To your girlfriend? And to the match? How could you even have thought of missing the big match? Are you still with us? Real Madrid and AC Milan are now on the pitch. Let’s enjoy the match together. Heineken. Made to entertain”.

How best to use social media to drive engagement with your sponsorship

Friday, June 11th, 2010

A key challenge when developing a successful sponsorship platform is identifying means in which to firstly develop the sponsorship community, and secondly to engage with this community.

The online environment provides many tools in which this community development and engagement can be successfully activated. Social media tools such as Facebook pages and Twitter channels have become increasingly popular for sponsors as a means of getting their association and/or message(s) out to target audiences.

Using these online and specifically social media tools is however simply the first step in successful engagement with a sponsorship community. What good is having a couple of hundred Facebook Fans if they don’t actually engage? When there, have they really engaged with the sponsorship? (more…)

How to ensure credibility as a sponsor through building lasting partnerships and delivering added value

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Cadbury GAA U21 Football Championship

One of the most important elements to consider when approaching a sponsorship campaign is to ensure that the programme you put in place reaches as far as possible into the roots of the partner organisation. Only by building these strong links will your brand achieve credibility within the partner organisations wider community and ultimately your target market. Over the last six years we’ve worked extremely hard at building lasting relationships with GAA stakeholders across the country, from county supporters clubs, county PRO’s, county secretaries, Third Level development officers and their students, to GAA management in Croke Park. Our goal with Cadbury is to become a living and vibrant part of the Under 21 Championship, an organisation that is looked upon as an equal partner rather than as a sponsor and one that continues to deliver added value to the GAA community. Building these relationships takes time, understanding and commitment, and only through this can you begin to implement the type of programme which will resonate with the grass roots. (more…)

2010 Cadbury GAA U21 Football Championship Highlights

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Another terrific championship saw Cadbury invest even more in enhancing supporters experiences around the championship including the launch of a new in-store promotion, the introduction of free Cadbury GAA Busses to and from matches, and the Cadbury GAA Experiential Kicking Unit which traveled around colleges and matches from February 2010.This extra activity together with a very exciting championship saw attendances grow substantially with 9,000 people witnessing Dublin’s narrow victory over Donegal in All Ireland Final in Breffni Park.