France will play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday in the last competitive home game for the Irish Rugby team in this massive year of 2019.
For Team Sponsor Vodafone it is an opportunity to bring key clients in closer to the #TeamOfUs theme of their sponsorship campaign.
Sport for Business caught up with Vodafone’s newly promoted Head of Sponsorship Gerry Nixon this week to see how the campaign has been going throughout the Guinness Six Nations and to discover a little more about the plans for the rest of the year.
Sport for Business: Last year was incredible for Irish Rugby across the board. The defeat to England deflated the feeling a little though. Does that matter to you as the team sponsor?
Gerry Nixon: Sure as a fan I was disappointed but there will always be wins and losses in sport and as a team partner we are there regardless. 2018 was magical and that rubbed off on the brand but remember back our first game on the shirt in the Six Nations was a defeat to Scotland in Murrayfield.
It is very much a #TeamOfUs and we are there with the fans, with the players and with the sport on a Monday after a defeat just as we are on a Saturday or Sunday of a victory.
Is the fact of only having two Championship games at home this year a challenge?
Honestly the Guinness Six Nations is such a big tournament, the best in the world, that every game is a major event, regardless of where it is played. It is great to have a bit more access to the team when we are at home. We had some key customers down in Carton House for the open training session and the impact of bringing people so close to the players, then and after the game in the stadium can never be underestimated.
The campaign has been focused on telling the human story behind the hero on the pitch and that has resonated really well as we reached out to a wider audience than was traditionally the case in rugby. When you come face to face with someone you have cheered with such emotion though, the impact remains pretty special.
We will have a great engagement with the 52,000 in the stadium on Sunday but this is a game, like those in Cardiff, Rome, Edinburgh or Japan that will be watched by millions and that’s where the real importance lies for us as a brand.
How has it been looking to secure a share of voice with Guinness on board and activating extensively around the games?
We have worked alongside Guinness throughout and we really are a partnership of partners around Irish Rugby.
There is no competition between us so what they do to raise the profile of the tournament, and what we do around the team, is in many ways of mutual benefit. The IRFU are very good at bringing us together and added competition around the brand landscape keeps us all on our game.
What have been the elements of the campaign that have worked best through the tournament?
The advertising has proved really popular. You are always nervous putting a new campaign on show and sometimes it takes a while for it to register but with this the impact was immediate. People liked it. The reaction on social media, a first point of contact, was overwhelmingly positive and that has continued.
We always want to showcase our ability to connect people through technology and the exclusive use of almost live video content and clips in advance and then in game through the Vodafone App has been very succesful.
The app is a key business priority both locally and globally and using our relationship with rugby to make that a big feature on people’s devices has been a business winner.
You won an ward again at the European Sponsorship Awards last week. Does that recognition matter to you as a brand?
It does on a number of levels. It’s good recognition for the team we have internally that what they are bringing together is being recognised by others.
The agencies we work with take real pleasure that their creative ideas have found favour.
It’s important though that the awards are credible. The European Sponsorship Association puts us in genuine competition with brands across the continent and being part of another great year for Ireland at the awards helps raise the flag over what we do.
And now we are entering the final phases of the Six Nations, how are plans progressing for the World Cup?
It is a work in progress but has been central in our thinking and planning since last year.
We are building out ideas around the new experience of gaining traction with fans at 11 AM on a weekday morning as opposed to early evening on a weekend. That will be different and this is a new experience for us but we have a great team and it’s an exciting process to be leading.
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