Teneo’s Look Back on the Highs of 2018

It may have been the timing in the immediate aftermath of the win over New Zealand but the 2018 Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index has reasserted Irish Rugby as being at the top of the tree for fans.

Recency bias is an accepted challenge when it comes to snapshot research but there will always be a moment when every sport has its time in the spotlight and while those who voted the Irish Women’s Hockey Team as Team of the Year in Saturday’s RTÉ Sport Awards will be disappointed, the survey is a reflection yet again of what a stellar year it has been across a multitude of Irish sports.

This survey was conducted across 1,000 people from the general as opposed to a sports biased population, and in that sense the mega TV moments provided by Rugby will have had a greater impact.

Quotas are imposed across gender, region, age and social class, and there will be a deeper dive into other areas of the reaarch in the coming weeks and in person at the Sport for Business Sporting Year Ahead on January 18th.

The research was carried out by Teneo’s Sports and Sponsorship team and iReach and examines the Irish general public’s attitudes towards sport and their sporting heroes. This  is the ninth year of the TSSI and the research was carried out between Friday November 30th and Friday December 7th.


Team of the Year

In a year when they won a Grand Slam, won a test series in Australia and beat the All Blacks for the first time ever on home soil, the Ireland rugby team come out on top as Team of the Year. They earned top billing with 43% overall. In doing so they remain the Team of the Year for the fifth year running.

The Ireland women’s hockey team captured the hearts of the country during the summer and took 17% of the vote in the TSSI to finish a clear second.

Limerick’s All-Ireland winning hurlers came in third on 8%.

In Connacht/Ulster a massive 62 per cent ranked Joe Schmidt’s side as the Team of the Year while in Dublin both the Dublin senior footballers and the Leinster rugby team pushed the Limerick hurlers out of the top four places.

The senior All Ireland winners in football, ladies football, hurling and camogie polled 19 per cent of the vote between them.

Greatest Sporting Achievement

Rugby dominates a number of other categories, including when it comes to rating the Greatest Sporting Achievement in Irish sport in 2018. Ireland’s first ever win against the All Blacks on home soil during the November internationals was ranked in top spot by a massive 40 per cent of those surveyed.

This was undoubtedly impacted by the timing of the research but the gender breakdown paints a picture as well with 55 per cent of males aged 45 to 54 and 54 per cent of males aged 18 to 24 most impressed by the win.  Maybe we just have shorter attention spans.

Katie Taylor’s WBA Lightweight World Championship win was 2017’s Greatest Sporting Achievement and that recorded only 16 per cent to claim top spot.

Ireland’s Grand Slam win was a distant second behind the defeat of the All Blacks on 15% per cent while the Women’s hockey team finishing as runners up at the World Cup on scored seven per cent to come third.  That seems remarkably low but is perhaps a sign of the speed with which sporting achievement slips in and out of the public consciousness.

Limerick’s All-Ireland senior hurling championship win is ranked in third place on 11% by those in Munster.

Most Admired Sports Star

Katie Taylor’s place in the hearts of the Irish public is once again highlighted. She is the country’s Most Admired Sports Star with 19 per cent of respondents ranking her at number one. This is the fourth time in the last six years that she comes out on top in this category.

In what was a special year for Johnny Sexton, he takes second place on the list. World Rugby’s Player of the Year and the RTÉ Sports Personality of 2018 was ranked most admired by 11 per cent of respondents.

World Championship winning rowers the O’Donovan brothers were just behind with a gap then to Peter O’Mahony on 6 per cent and Conor Murray and Joe Canning on 4 per cent.

Conor McGregor, who came out on top in this category in 2016 and second in 2017, polled 2 per cent and is outside the top 10.

Most Memorable Irish Sporting Moment

A rugby moment also comes out on top when the public were asked to decide upon the Most Memorable Moment in Irish Sport in 2018. Jonny Sexton’s last gasp drop goal against France took an overall total of 31 per cent. The women’s hockey team’s win against Spain on penalties in the World Cup semi-final came in second here on 21 per cent.

Interestingly however, those positions were reversed amongst females with the hockey shoot out drama on 26 per cent and Sexton’s drop goal on 24 per cent.

There was a similar pattern in Leinster (outside of Dublin) with 28 per cent ranking the hockey moment above the rugby moment on 27per cent.

Favourite Sport

One of the ironies around sport in Ireland is that while Rugby consistently dominates the biggest moments it always trails behind in terms of the number of those who play and those who deem it to be their favourite sport.

Soccer came out on top in terms of being Ireland’s Favourite Sport for eight consecutive years from 2010 when this research was first carried out.

In 2018 though it has given away the top spot to Gaelic Games.

A culmination of a steady decrease in the popularity of soccer over the last six years from 26 per cent in 2013, 24 per cent in 2014, 21 per cent in both 2015 and 2016, 20 per cent in 2017 and now 19 per cent in 2018.

It is not all doom and gloom however.  Despite being a very difficult year for the international teams it remains the favourite sport amongst males on 28 per cent while 44 per cent of respondents said they liked or were interested in the sport.

The popularity of Gaelic Games (football, ladies football, hurling and camogie) has enjoyed a significant jump over the last twelve months gaining 4 percentage points as it moved from 17 per cent in 2017 to 21 per cent this year.

It has climbed 6 percentage points in total since 2013. One major contributing factor has been Gaelic Games popularity amongst females strengthening, mirroring the overall popularity jump from 17 per cent to 21 per cent.

Rugby comes in third place on 14 per cent while 43 per cent of respondents said they liked or were interested in it.

Athletics, Swimming , tennis and Golf all came in at around three per cent.

Looking ahead to 2019

The Rugby World Cup is what has us most excited as a country for 2019. 26 per cent of those surveyed give the tournament in Japan the nod as the sporting event they are most looking forward to.

The All-Ireland senior inter-county championships are next in line on 19 per cent, down from 25 per cent in 2017 but still at the same level as it was in 2016.

The Guinness Six Nations on 11 per cent is third just ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifiers on 10 per cent.

“2018 really was a remarkable year for Irish sport, said Kelli O’Keeffe, Managing Director of Teneo Sport. “We’ve seen everything from a rugby Grand Slam, to world championship golds in boxing and rowing, to success on the athletics track and a World Cup final appearance by an Irish team. There was undoubtedly an abundance of highlights to get the Irish public talking at international level.”

“This was the same at national level where we’ve seen a four in a row for Jim Gavin’s Dubs, a breakthrough win for Limerick, a record breaking crowd for the Dublin ladies success, Cork dominating Camogie and a double by Dundalk.”

“As may have been expected, rugby and hockey figure prominently throughout the results of this, the ninth Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index. Joe Schmidt’s team and Graham Shaw’s side certainly captured the imagination with their outstanding performances. To see a team who reached a World Cup final not getting the nod as Team of the Year just shows the impact rugby had on the public consciousness throughout 2018.”

“It should also be borne in mind that the research was carried out in the immediate aftermath of the November internationals so the win against the All Blacks would have been very fresh in people’s minds.

“The excitement generated by a revamped hurling championship will certainly also have boosted the popularity of Gaelic Games in 2018 and people are really looking forward to the All-Ireland Championships next year. Not surprisingly though, given the successes enjoyed by our rugby team this year we’re excited to see what they can achieve in Japan.

“The impact of women in sport throughout 2018 is also clearly visible in the findings. Katie Taylor’s popularity endures but now there is a much broader representation of female sport in the findings and that reflects what we are seeing in terms of coverage and interest.

“The findings always cause plenty of debate and that’s the beauty of sport. The TSSI provides a snap shot of the general public’s views on the sporting year that was and the sporting year to come. Let’s hope 2019 can be every bit if not even more successful for Irish sport.”


Join us for an in dpeth look at the research and at some of the major sporting events for the year ahead, in the company of those who wil be bringing them to life at our first major event of the New Year, ‘The Sporting Year Ahead’ in the Iveagh Garden Hotel on the morning of Friday, January 18th.  Places are limited and have sold out for the last two years so it may be worthwhile booking your place now before Christmas if you would like to be part of it.  We will be announcing our first keynote speakers for the event tomorrow.


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