AIG and the Dubs – John Gillick Interview

AIG is back for year five of its successful partnership with Dublin GAA.  That means it is the last year of the initial deal and the conversation about a renewal is just about getting under way.

Sport for Business sat down with AIG Sponsorship Manager John Gillick at Parnell Park to talk about how the deal has evolved and what it has delivered for the brand.

Start of a new season, building on a great season.  How did success on the pitch reflect in AIG’s sense of value from the partnership?

Since year one and day one it has been a great partnership and last year really raised it to a new level.  Three in a row for the men was very special but the Women’s breakthrough was just as important.  We’ve been there with them at times when they might have won and to get there last season was a real winner.

To be able to bring the Sam Maguire and Brendan Martin Cups into the office is a real privilege and we have got to know the players better than ever.  We brought some of them to Boston with us for the AIG Classic and being at celebrations in the days and weeks after the event was great.

The Blues Sisters documentary was an added bonus. What impact do you think that had?

We do a lot of content with clubs and focusing on players like Noelle Healy, giving an inside glimpse to life on and off the pitch.

Blues Sisters was on a different scale in terms of its reach but it was reinforcing what we have done as a brand and it really did add value to our partnership.

The reception it got through TV and the wider society showed there was a huge appetite for the Women’s game.  It reached way beyond the GAA community and the exposure it gave us was great in such a positive story.

We were front and centre stage on gear, training kit and more and for no additional expenditure so that has to go down as a real unplanned highlight of the year.

We were also pleased to back the Sport for Business Game Changer Network helping connect women in sport with women in business and that will expand and develop through 2018 as well.

Were your views sought as to whether this was a good idea to film ‘warts and all’? It turned out great but it might not have been so positive.

No, this was the team’s call.  We knew it was going on but it’s not our place to dictate.

Management and players made the call and it turned out great for them and for us.

It didn’t really matter whether they won in the end, it was about seeing how they reacted in a very human way to all the steps along the way.

AIG is the main partner for Dublin GAA but how do you work alongside other partners?

We always want to work alongside Dublin GAA’s other sponsors in ways that benefit us all.

Aer Lingus was a great example last year where they helped with providing us seats to get more players over to Fenway Park and once you are doing things to complement each other’s brand then the team is a great enabler of that.

We give back through simple things like including their logo on the end frame of the video content we produced.  We are complementing each other rather than competing for time and space with the team.

Has awareness of AIG with Dublin reached a plateau, can it go much higher?

There is always room to improve and targets to be hit.

Obviously, in year one and year two of the deal we saw huge leaps from a low base in terms of the awareness of who we were as a brand within the Irish marketplace.

We measure sentiment and a wide variety of metrics twice a year and each new iteration of that research sets a new bar as to where we want to get to next time.

The partnership with Dublin GAA has been a very important part of how we address those challenges.

In the sport and the wider community, you might assume that everyone knows us and the sponsorship but that’s not always the case and there is still plenty of room for growth.

We’ve spoken before about the impact on staff morale and motivation, how important is that in terms of being able to call on players over the year?

We do a lot in terms of staff engagement and retention and the partnership is very important towards that.

For Allianz League Games at this time of year, we can generally accomodate anyone who wants to go along to the games, bring their family and enjoy the atmosphere.

Obviously that gets more difficult as the season progresses but there is always some allocation for staff and that’s popular among the teams.

We do an AIG Heroes initiative and other areas we are developing this year in social responsibility that staff really buy into and are excited by.

There is a health and wellness week we do each year in February and bringing in players to talk about preparation, training, nutrition and more is incredibly popular.

Last year we did a specific programme highlighting girls in STEM and Noelle Healy as a fully qualified anaesthetist came in to really bring that to life, alongside Ken Robinson.

They are great role models and people from across the company were really inspired by getting to know them and hear their stories first hand.

It has been a really important part of the overall engagement and adds something to working for AIG.

This is the last year of your initial deal, how might the renewal talks be looking?

The contract runs to the end of November and its a bit early to be talking about it yet.

This will be a busy year and we have plenty of exciting plans to get through 2018.  We know it is on the horizon and the reality is that we are both starting to get our thoughts together but the focus, for now, is on now. We’ll get to the future over the course of the year.

What plans have you that will come to fruition over the coming months?

We want to keep building on what has been strong in terms of content.  Real lives, real stories, real people from across the community of Dublin GAA delivers for us.

We are looking at new ways of telling those stories, new ways of engaging with the clubs and also the fans, and that’s reflected in the deals on insurance renewals we do through Dublin GAA.

Dublin is a key market and the GAA teams are a real bond that unites the area.

AIG Heroes will be running through the year and we have an exciting project in the early stages within the North Inner City where we are working with different partners to make a real difference to lives within the community.

AIG bought Laya Healthcare to provide a strong health insurance arm./ Are there likely to be more links between the two?

The two companies have operated separately but there are areas where we can look to get a bit more convergence.

Laya has a great relationship with Leinster Rugby and there are potential areas for crossover between those two ‘assets’ within Rugby and GAA at a high level and it is something which as an overall group we will doubtless be looking at.

Sport for Business will follow the development of the year’s activity between our two members in AIG and Dublin GAA, as well as those potential crossover points with Laya Healthcare and Leinster Rugby as the season progresses.

Much is said of how Dublin’s commercial muscle is damaging to the game but they are the biggest show in town and are managing the strength that brings to good effect across Dublin and indeed the wider GAA.

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