Sport for Business members Livewire have published a review of some of the areas they saw as being key in the course of 2016.
Over the coming days we will look at what they believe we could and should have learned in relation to activation, immersion and the relationship between sponsors and rights holders.
In early 2016 Livewire held the view that the year ahead would be an exceptionally busy year for sponsors, driven by a “summer of sport”, due to Ireland’s involvement in Euro 2016, the Olympic Games, as well as annual stalwarts including the GAA Championships.
Add to this an ever growing music and cultural festival scene, and it was clear the landscape was likely to be both cluttered yet potentially exciting. In January 2016 we pointed to three trends to watch for the year ahead:
- Superior activation strategies – Published below
- Immersive media sponsorships – Monday
- Sponsors looking for more from rights holders – Tuesday
Livewire spoke to a select number of sponsors, rights holders and media owners to ask their views on the sponsorship campaigns which stood in 2016. We also asked them what was on their sponsorship Christmas wish list for 2017 and what they would like to see sponsors and rights holders do more of next year.
So, how did our predictions for key trends in 2016 fare? The answer lies in three separate reports in which we have analysed the above trends.
Superior Activation Strategies
In this year of all years we have reviewed three sporting activations which delivered in 2016.
Lidl – Ladies Football
2016 started with a bang in the shape of the multiple award winning launch of Lidl’s sponsorship of the LGFA and the Ladies National Football League, which kicked off with the provocative “Ladyball” concept.
This campaign stood out for several reasons. Firstly, it was evident that Lidl worked hand in hand with the LGFA to design a powerful 360 activation for their sponsorship.
Secondly Lidl’s brave decision to create an entire campaign – bolstered by a reported adspend of €1.6 million on media channels (Source: Nielsen Ad Dynamix) – around a platform which traditionally would be viewed as having low reach, was lauded by many marketers that we spoke to as a brave, but clever move. This is illustrated by the sponsorship being shortlisted in the European Sponsorship Association Excellence Awards.
While interest levels among the public and the industry in women’s sport in Ireland has steadily grown in the past five years – with Liberty Insurance’s work on Camogie, the phenomenon that is Katie Taylor, and the advances made in the game of Women’s rugby, due much of the credit – it is not untoward to say that spend, reach and indeed national interest in women’s sport, never mind the LGFA, was at a relatively low level prior to the #SeriousSupport campaign.
From a commercial perspective, a heavy above the line campaign was buoyed with in-store competitions in support of local post primary schools and Ladies Gaelic Football clubs which crucially brought the sponsorship into the community. This for possibly the first time, gave Lidl a crucial platform for differentiation against its key competitor Aldi, as well as a channel to convey its local credentials.
Attendance at the Ladies Football Championship Final increased year on year to 34,445 but perhaps the most significant increase was in TV viewership, with a 100% increase YoY, from 104,000 to 207,790 (adults aged 15+) with the share of audience viewing increasing from 11% in 2015 to 27% for the 2016 final.
Lidl has been operating in the Irish market since 2000 and for the past 16 years most of its campaigns have focussed on tactical/brand messaging – specifically price and awareness building. This successful campaign was their first foray into a large scale national sponsorship – something which it’s direct competitor has since responded to as Aldi launched “Play Rugby” in conjunction with the IRFU in September 2016.
Livewire maintain that adding value is integral to the success of any sponsorship – something which Lidl has undoubtedly achieved with Ladies GAA.
Lidl is ahead of the curve in how it has embraced and leveraged the potential of a female sport. And while we expect that other brands will wake up to the power of women’s sport, they may still trail in Lidl’s wake in 2017. It’s an exciting time for this sector with Lidl, Aldi, SuperValu and Centra actively involved in sponsorship it promises to be one to watch for 2017.
For comparison purposes the SSE FA Women’s Cup is a high-profile competition which receives national coverage in the UK, but still falls short of the attendance for the Ladies Football Championship final:
- 2016 Ladies Football Championship Final: 34,445
- 2016 Ladies FA Cup Final: 32,912
Lidl’s spend of €1.6m (Source: Nielsen Ad Dynamix) in media, represents only a proportion of the budget allocated to activating its sponsorship – with experiential, production, PR and rights holder fees all in addition to the €1.6m adspend, it is highly likely that this is the largest amount of money ever invested in support of women’s sport in Ireland.
Spar & The Team of Gary Breen’s
While the excitement around Euro 2016 provided brands with an opportunity to engage football fans, only tournament sponsors are entitled to associate with the tournament itself. This created a challenge for official FAI sponsors looking to leverage their association with the team playing in the competition. SPAR was one such example – official partners of the FAI but not the competition.
The money invested by sponsors for the right to associate with either the Irish team or Euro 2016 serves to create an opportunity to engage football fans. The trick has always been maximising this opportunity with an activation strategy which connects, something SPAR did masterfully in Summer 2016. Their promotion to send “A Team of Gary Breens” to France to support the boys in green, along with the former Irish international himself, met their primary objective of driving footfall to stores.
Livewire research showed that post-tournament, 24% of people aware of the sponsorship were more likely to shop at the convenience retailer as a result of their sponsorship of the team. The activation ran in-store, alongside a broadcast partnership with Off The Ball on Newstalk. The campaign was activated both on-air and online through display, native content and a number of giveaways (incl. a signed team jersey), culminating in an outside broadcast event in J.T. Pim’s in Dublin city centre
SPAR was keen to engage a core audience of sports fans from around the country, while granting the opportunity to communicate key brand messages on a national scale. SPAR wanted to communicate with fans of Irish soccer and Off The Ball was unequivocally the ideal platform to do this.
Littlewoods & GAA
The end of the year brought the launch of a partnership that may have been a surprise to some.
This was one of the biggest, and hotly contested sponsorship deals brokered in 2016. We see Littlewoods’ investment being €2.5 to €3 million over the next three years, with the deal running through to 2019.
Livewire’s research for this report showed that advertisers believe that the GAA arena is quite cluttered, with many brands in similar categories fighting to create resonance. Without fail, all marketers we spoke to referenced AIB as clear winners in this space.
Littlewoods has become sponsor of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship and the Camogie National League, as well as Go Games (a small sided hurling and football programme). While this sponsorship is in its infancy, there are insights to be taken from the brand’s approach thus far.
The initial coverage of the launch has already highlighted that, by collaborating with a retailer operating primarily in fashion, the GAA is already being mentioned in new spaces, with coverage on sites including Her.ie and Evoke.ie reaching a community of fashion and style enthusiasts. The savvy timing of a pre-Christmas launch makes ultimate sense for Littlewoods as a retailer competing with bricks and mortar department stores.
Sports sponsorships involving fashion retailers in this market are relatively rare. Elverys are a manufacturer of sports clothing rather than a retailer, Dublin GAA and Arnotts had a rich 18-year partnership with the sponsorship driving home the Arnotts objective of driving their identity as a pillar of Dublin.
At the start of 2016 Livewire felt that a select few Irish sponsors were already mastering activation, and seeing the benefits of same. Unfortunately, the scale and quality of such activations by these leading brands in sport sponsorship remains the exception rather than the rule. Certainly, activations in areas including music and the arts haven’t been as remarkable in their progress – notable exceptions in the music world includes Heineken and Electric Ireland. However, it feels as though the adage of “if it ain’t broke…” is alive and well when it comes to sponsorship of music properties including the ever popular festival formats. Activations that were seen as cutting edge a few years ago are still touring the festival scene. Thus, we implore sponsors to break new ground in 2017. In particular, there is a major opportunity for sponsors in music to add value to festival fans in a new way, for example by taking advantage of tech and social innovations. Cashless festivals anyone!?
Monday: Media Sponsorship Strategies
Power up your networking and gain insight on the big events and the sponsorship trends that will impact upon us at The Sporting Year Ahead on January 20th. Reserve your place now.