Ahead of Sunday’s All Ireland Hurling Final Sport for Business has been out and about with some of the key people on the commercial side of the game and the Hurling Championship. This morning we have a chat with Pippa Doyle, sponsorship lead at Littlewoods Ireland on how they have been busy throughout the campaign.
SfB:What have been the highlight’s of your Hurling sponsorship so far this year?
Pippa Doyle: That’s a tough one! There were definitely some shock game results earlier in the season- namely Dublin’s win over Galway, and Wexford claiming the 2019 Leinster title. I should have learned by now not to be surprised by hurling, but the games never fail to leave fans on the edge of our seats.
In terms of our sponsorship campaign this season we were really proud to launch a new creative direction for Style Of Play: Countless Style All Working Towards One Thing. We released a fun, fast-paced video featuring both players and fans, with the message behind it being that the hurling community all express themselves in different ways and have their own unique and individual styles, but they all share one thing – a love for hurling and a dream of their county lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
From this came a fully integrated campaign that included TV, numerous pieces of video content, and social assets. It’s amazing to see all of this come together.
We’ve had some great graphics on social too, and we are doing our Littlewoods Ireland Ultimate Croke Park Sleepover again this weekend, so that’s all been really exciting.
Another highlight for me would have to be the launch of O’Neills county jerseys to LittlewoodsIreland.ie. To launch the partnership, our ambassador Jackie Tyrrell designed a bespoke jersey and it was a fun process to be part of.
How important is the sponsorship in terms of online activation for Littlewoods?
It’s a huge part of our sponsorship campaign. Being an online retailer, online is where we live so we need to excel there.
This year we elevated our social strategy for sponsorship considerably, with an always-on approach. We created bespoke weekly and match day graphics for our social channels. We also produced weekly blog content, trialled new content formats and released a greater amount of video content. We also continued to give away match tickets to customers on a weekly basis, as well as the opportunity to be a flagbearer on match day, through social competitions.
The results from this new approach are all up year on year, with some of the most notable being our impressions, engagement rates and video view figures.
These are great to see, but we can also see the commercial value through our social posts too and these are providing us with positive numbers as well.
What was your personal favourite content from this year’s campaign?
My personal favourite would definitely be our new Style Of Play video. A lot of thought and hard work went into it, and there were a number of different cut downs created with the same theme, but the full 60 second version is definitely my favourite. I was smiling from ear to ear when we released it, it’s something our team is very proud of.
How much of a focus do you place on customer engagement with your ambassadors?
It’s definitely something we like to do. We feel that our ambassadors are an extension of us, and are part of the Littlewoods Ireland family, so when they engage with our customers they do so on behalf of us.
A big piece of customer engagement for us this year is our Croke Park Sleepover activation. At the time of writing this the activation hasn’t taken place yet so I can’t give the name away- but we involve ambassadors in this to heighten the experience for the winning family. Having our ambassadors interact with our customers in this way is also very important for us as a brand with no bricks and mortar stores. It gives our customers a physical representation of Littlewoods Ireland in a way, and allows us to be more personal.
How do you primarily activate the sponsorship throughout the year?
We primarily activate through digital and social. We are sponsors of the National Camogie League and the GAA Go Games Provincial Days, as well as the Senior Hurling Championship, so our sponsorship properties really carry us through 9 months of the year. However, social allows us the space to speak about sponsorship all year round.
How big of a challenge is it working within the tighter timetables of the Munster and Leinster Championships and then the knock out stages?
We haven’t found the tighter window to be too much of a challenge, because we had only completed year one of our sponsorship when the new championship structure was rolled out.
It provides sponsors with a burst of time where all hurling counties are involved, and allows an opportunity to engage all of these fans through content or activation. In my opinion, the Round Robin stages is actually almost more beneficial for sponsors in this way.
Is the Final ‘just another game’ or is there a much greater sense of excitement at this time of year?
Oh there’s a great sense of excitement around it! I feel that excitement from semi-final stages, but the final is a whole different ball game (pardon the pun!).
It’s a great occasion, where the GAA community really come together. It’s not just fans from Kilkenny and Tipperary that will be supporting on the day- and I think that’s the beauty of the game. I’m lucky enough to get to be in Croke Park on Sunday, and the buzz around the stadium on All Ireland Final day is something else.
What do you have special lined up for the weekend?
We’re hosting the Littlewoods Ireland Ultimate Croke Park Sleepover again – but it’s even bigger this year.
So that takes place on Saturday evening with our lucky winners, the O’Sullivan family, spending the night in the Littlewoods Ireland suite in Croke Park, and getting unprecedented access to the stadium.
The experience then continues into Sunday this year with the O’Sullivan’s getting to see how the stadium works on Final day, and they’ll even get to take part in a couple of things- including being flagbearers for the match.
After that then we’ll be hosting an afternoon of hospitality, back in our suite (it’s a quick turnaround!), with some of our partners and enjoy what should be a great game.
How do you think the game will go on Sunday?
The rivalry is so strong between Kilkenny and Tipp you never really know which way it’s going to go. I’ve been having a look back at some of their previous battles in 2010, 2014 and 2016- and it’s definitely a tough one to call.
As a sponsor I’m remaining neutral and will be happy either way- but with Jackie Tyrrell as our ambassador I’ll be cheering on the Cats!
Image credit: Stephen McCarthy, Sportsfile