In a recent survey conducted by Irish Company Onside Sports Sponsorship, spend in sponsorship by brands in sport has fallen 4% in 2011 to €120m in the Irish market compared to 2010 figures. Even though the drop occurred in recent years, this year we expect it to stabilise with major sport events such as the London Olympics, World Ocean race, F1 in the city and Euro 2012.
The survey revealed that two in three sponsors expect to keep sponsorship spend the same or increase spend depending on their involvement in certain sports or events. What stood out most in the survey was that Rugby alongside GAA in some aspects is seen the strongest sports to support brands growth.
O2’s sponsorships of Irish Rugby and The O2 were voted for most frequently by sponsorship industry peers as the standout activities of 2011, along with Guinness amazing partnership with rugby and the Aviva Stadium sponsorship. The recent success of Irish rugby and the brand values it possesses as a sport fit the core brand values of the above major brands.
Players, digital developments and the fans themselves bring more leverage beyond the above big brands. Also highlighted in Onside Sports Survey was the value of Athletes to the brands.
Irish Rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll who is currently rehabilitating a shoulder injury was rated the most marketable sports star in Ireland. It is no real surprise he is in this position, the fact that on the field he is a world class player and leader whilst off the field he is a role model to most target markets. Other standout players in Irish rugby who are in his shadows are Jonathon Sexton, Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Bowe.
Taking on an athlete to endorse a product is not as easy as the Marketing Team of a big brand calling the players agent, throwing a six figure sums to run around the local Credit Union or playing a game of Touch Rugby with random people in a house estate!
Whilst O’Driscoll could endorse almost any brand and the offers I’m sure have come in it is important to be strategic in the selection of which brand to endorse.
Credibility, reputation and fitting brand values are imperative to selection. Some brands just used players for the sake of association and in the past the fit is almost cringe worthy; we all remember the Wavin commercial with Denis Hickie!
The new crop of players should be taking notes and the agents more so. Whilst it is great in the short term to make a quick fee and a have a grab it while you can approach, building a relationship with brands at an early stage could develop a long term relationships. Values that fit both parties’ style and personality are absorbed by the consumer and in the long term be a catalyst in the brands growth resulting in a potential growth in the players sponsorship deal too.
Let’s have a little look at the products the current young players could build a long term relationship with as an ambassador of other brands they are not already pushing;
Sean O’Brien – A proud farming man at heart loves the simple things in life and is close to his roots. Machinery Brands, Power Tools and Welly Brands should be running at Sean to jump on board. Paul O’Connell with the NDA was a super choice but John Hayes must be bitter of this one.
Conor Murray – Murray has come from nowhere to take control of the No.9 shirt and is very easy on the eyes. We all hope he stays away from the Welsh dressing room for image tips and maybe sit down with Andrew Trimble to team up with a hair care brand that can tackle (pun intended) either fuzzy or greasy hair. A new rugby player’s collection of hair care products created for the man who doesn’t mind getting down and dirty!
The Kearney Brothers – Never has there been an opportunity to take the crown of Jedward than the beauty that is the ‘Kearndasians’. These men are so beautiful that they could do a double centre spread in the Drogheda Leader I’m thinking big things for these guys’ underpants collections similar to David Beckham available in Country Life Agriculture store. The only barrier stopping these men is selecting Y fronts or budgie smugglers.