all to play for

Rob Pearson says sponsorships should be formed round enterprise targets, in any other case manufacturers are taking part in within the little leagues

Eire has a deep connection and love of sport. TAM/Nielsen knowledge revealed that 9 of the highest 10, and 31 of the highest 50, most watched programmes in Eire final yr had been sporting occasions. 4 Guinness Six Nations matches, three Fifa World Cup matches and the GAA’s All Eire Soccer and Hurling finals had been denied prime spot by the cultural icon that’s RTE’s Late Late Toy Present.

As viewing habits proceed to alter with a transfer in the direction of on demand platforms, it’s clear that sport is the final vestige of dwell TV. Sponsorship is the car connecting manufacturers with an viewers that’s changing into more and more laborious to succeed in by regular channels. Sport’s means to attract a crowd stays fixed, whereas on the identical time there was main change in how folks watch it.

Over half of Irish folks examine social whereas watching sport with WhatsApp, Fb, Instagram and Twitter. Folks join with others across the recreation, checking in on scores from different matches and looking for out skilled evaluation. If model house owners perceive what motivates folks to succeed in for his or her second and third screens, then they can add worth and keep away from lacking out.

Sponsorship isn’t new, some say it dates again to the Greek and Roman occasions when wealthy center courses paid and sponsored athletes who had been common with the lots and artists had been supported by patrons. However the true tempo and development in sports activities advertising and sponsorship didn’t happen till the 1930’s when tv protection of sport started, opening the door for manufacturers.

Rewards from GAA ties: By way of Bord Gáis Power’s Rewards Membership, members can get entry to sports activities and leisure by BGE’s sponsorship of the GAA Hurling Senior All-Eire Championship, the Bord Gáis Power GAA Hurling U-21 All-Eire Championship (pictured) and the Bord Gáis Power GAA Legends Tour Sequence and the Bord Gáis Power Theatre.

The Irish sponsorship business is seen as being one of the modern and progressive on the earth. One of many earliest and nonetheless prevalent examples is the splendidly simplistic Texaco Kids’s Artwork Competitors which has been on the go since 1955. The business actually took off within the 1980’s when Anheuser-Bush got here to Eire to sponsor the Budweiser Irish Derby.

German automobile producer Opel swooped in to sponsor a golden period of Irish soccer with the spotlight being the mighty exploits of Jack Charlton’s Boys in Inexperienced. Within the Nineteen Nineties the IRFU and GAA bought in on the act with professionalisation of rugby and Guinness changing into title sponsor of the Hurling Championship, whereas on the identical time county jersey sponsors grew to become the norm.

Cell phone model O2 achieved the primary naming rights of be aware when in 2007 they sponsored the Level Depot at Dublin’s IFSC – later the 3Arena. Since then, the flood gates have opened with most stadia and important venues across the nation having both rebranded, or contemplating it, with the latest high-profile deal being struck between Three and the now Three Olympia.


Different offers have moved the dial in how sponsorship is considered in Eire for enterprise affect and societal change embody Lidl’s backing of the LGFA and gender equality in sport, SSE Airtricity’s sustainability programme at Dublin Zoo, Bord Gais’ loyalty and rewards schemes with the GAA and Grand Canal Theatre and Electrical Eire’s help for Pieta Home’s Darkness Into Mild.

Sports activities stars at the moment look very completely different to these of 20 years in the past with ladies becoming a member of the highest ranks. Katie Taylor has been Eire’s most admired athlete for 10 of the 13 years of Teneo’s analysis with Rachael Blackmore and Kellie Harrington second and third in 2021 and 2022. Vera Pauw’s Irish ladies’s soccer group, which certified for this yr’s World Cup, was voted group of the yr.

The ‘large three’ sports activities proceed to dominate the panorama. Gaelic Video games are the nation’s favorite sports activities, soccer enjoys probably the most common reputation and is ‘appreciated’ by 43 per cent of all adults. The 2023 Rugby World Cup is the occasion we’re most trying ahead to this yr. It comes as no shock then that the GAA, IRFU and FAI our bodies dominate Eire’s sports activities sponsorship market.

Driving excessive in king of sports activities: Nationwide hunt jockey Rachael Blackmore earned a take care of KPMG. In 2021, the Tipperary girl grew to become the primary feminine rider to win the Randox-sponsored Grand Nationwide at Aintree within the race’s 182-year historical past. As much as mid-January, Blackmore had 328 runs and 44 wins, with a strike price of 13 per cent. At Punchestown, her horse, Journey With Me, completed second within the Madigan Group Novice Chase.

These our bodies companion with the highest manufacturers and command sponsorship charges sometimes beginning at six-figure sums. However the nation’s broad appreciation for different sports activities akin to tennis, golf, horse racing, boxing and biking offers scope for manufacturers trying to carve out a distinct segment for themselves.Gone are the times when the one ask was eyeballs and model consciousness. Subtle sponsors are fixing important enterprise points by sponsorship and decreasing buyer churn, bettering employer model, sharing company narratives, re-positioning their companies, getting into new markets, launching merchandise, bringing their goal and values to life and giving again to native communities.

Placing it at its easiest, in 2023 in case your sponsorship isn’t supporting what you are promoting targets you then’re taking part in within the little leagues. The general public is more and more savvy in terms of manufacturers attempting to infiltrate the issues that they maintain dearest to them. Manufacturers that distract threat backlash, and people with no credible hyperlink or participating activation technique are quickly forgotten.


For the manufacturers who get it proper, the rewards are sizeable, driving angle and behavioural change with shoppers. Half of the general public really feel a deeper reference to manufacturers that have interaction in sponsorship, 54 per cent would select a sponsor’s services or products over one other if value and high quality had been equal, and a 3rd have purchased a product/service due to a sponsorship within the final yr.

There are some macro challenges going through the business within the cost-of-living disaster and the shadow forged by sports activities washing. Some 71 per cent of Irish adults imagine that large enterprise ought to put money into sponsorship in the course of the present disaster. Except for these majorly impacted by the disaster, help for continued sponsorships was voiced with solely 4 per cent saying they need to pause plans.

What affect will the tightening of the general public’s purse strings have on the broader sporting financial system? Sporting tools and clothes, TV sports activities subscriptions and sports activities vitamin are the areas the place the general public will retrench on most. Gymnasium memberships, membership memberships and youngsters’s courses and programs are proving extra proof against funds cuts with 10 per cent or much less in reductions.

Analysis by Teneo of over 50 sponsorship and advertising executives paints an image of resilience within the face of this headwind. The most important problem going through sponsors is, and has at all times been, securing funds, and but lower than 10 per cent of all Irish sponsors intend to spend much less in 2023 than 2022, and over a 3rd have dedicated to a brand new deal over the subsequent 12 months.

The time period sports activities washing, the act of diverting consideration by sponsorship of sport, has been thrust into mainstream consciousness by the media highlight on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the scrutiny of soccer membership possession (PSG, Manchester Metropolis, Newcastle United) and thru the ‘cancelling’ of quite a few offers backed by Russians.

Public consciousness and understanding of sports activities washing is excessive with 53 per cent of adults conscious of the time period, rising to 65 per cent of these aged 25-34. Being suspected of sports activities washing is sufficient to have profoundly destructive reputational affect on a model, with nearly all of these surveyed saying they’d react negatively in the direction of these regarded as concerned within the follow.


Virtually two thirds of business executives admitted that the heightened public consciousness of sports activities washing is on the agenda in terms of selecting companions. However the place there are challenges there are additionally alternatives. Manufacturers will proceed to stoke the fires within the engine room of ladies’s sport and use sponsorships to shine a light-weight on societal points round ESG and DE&I agendas.

Ladies’s sport has surged in reputation with manufacturers like AIG, AON, KPMG, Lidl and Sky signing up. Virtually three in 4 Irish adults imagine manufacturers ought to improve their funding in ladies’s sport, whereas 79 per cent suppose that rising participation within the space is vital and over half of underneath 35s would purchase a services or products because of a ladies’s sponsorship.

The business continues to prioritise gender fairness with an overwhelmingly opinion that these concerned in males’s sports activities must also look in the direction of getting concerned in ladies’s sport. An additional two thirds imagine that the promotion of ladies’s sport ought to stay a precedence this yr. Manufacturers are shifting in the direction of purpose-driven methods and utilizing their expertise to advocate for social change.

Sky helps the Eire ladies’s soccer group led by Arsenal’s Katie McCabe

There may be the apparent societal optimistic affect, however to the model there are much less altruistic advantages. Six out of ten adults react extra positively in the direction of manufacturers that undertake a purpose-led sponsorship technique, with Nielsen reporting 63 per cent extra engagement in comparison with different content material.

There may be additionally a rising weight of public expectation on manufacturers to make use of their sponsorships for social good; with 69 per cent believing that sport and sponsorships ought to try to turn into extra sustainable. Two thirds of adults in Eire imagine that sport and sponsors have a job to play in combating racism and in making a extra inclusive society.

As a nation, the sporting occasions we’re trying ahead to most this yr are the boys’s Rugby World Cup (18 per cent), the All Eire Soccer Championship (12 per cent), the Guinness Six Nations (11 per cent), the All Eire Hurling Championship (11 per cent) and the ladies’s Fifa World Cup (10 per cent). There may be a lot to be gained on the sector of play in 2023.

Ditto for the sponsors with pores and skin within the recreation.

Rob Pearson is head of sponsorship at Teneo. The corporate tracks attitudes in Eire in the direction of sport, train and sponsorship, documenting the modifications to how folks have interaction with sport, the affect of tech and affect of societal actions and company agendas.