In the world of entertainment massive personal followings can be created almost overnight but in the longer lifespan of a sporting career, the organic build of greater exposure is still a powerful driver.

New research by ONSIDE into the Q4 2021 footprint of Line Up Sports’ stable of Irish sports’ top stars found a direct correlation between the familiarity and awareness of Irish rugby players and their number of international caps.

Irish rugby players nearing the 100-cap milestone received significantly higher public familiarity and appeal scores, with 45 per cent and 39 per cent familiar with Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong, respectively. Murray has 241,000 followers on Instagram while Furlong has 90,000 across Instagram and Twitter.

The research indicates that each of them has a personal admiration fanbase of close to 750,000 with younger players Joey Carbery and James Ryan building their base with an equivalent number of personal fans hitting 400,000.

It also reveals that 46 per cent of Irish adults agree that using athletes and sports personalities as brand ambassadors provides a better way to promote products and services than straight product advertising.

“For many brands, Q4 is typically the window in which they look for options around medium term sponsorship and ambassadorial type opportunities,” said ONSIDE CEO John Trainor.


“The successful run that Irish rugby is on places Irish rugby stars right in the frame for consideration for brands planning their game plans out to 2023 – the year these players will be centre stage in France for RWC 2023.”

The personality based promotion is more likely to be effective among younger fans with 49 per cent in the 18-24 ‘Gen-Z’ bracket saying they would be positive towards brand ambassador marketing versus 27 per cent in the general population.

“The re-emergence of live sport and rugby means there is a heightened interest in rugby from purists and armchair fans alike,” added Elma Beirne, Commercial Director with Line Up Sports.

“The sport continues to provide credible, engaging brand ambassadors and we are seeing a noticeable pick up in interest for all of our athletes.”

“This research has had an invaluable impact on our business and how we strategically approach our work with our commercial partners. The latest report has given us an up-to-date deep dive into each of our athletes.”

“This enables us to prepare a much more robust case for brand fit and value and highlight the unique opportunities that each of our individual athletes hold beyond just on-field performance.”

The Sport for Business Perspective:

Backing up a feeling that one ambassador over another would work for particular brands with solid population research provides extra comfort for brand managers that the money they invest in a campaign will have a greater chance of landing exactly where they want it to. It also provides greater depth to the numbers game that a straight read of social media following can lead to.


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