Irish energy supplier Electric Ireland aims to differentiate the brand in a crowded Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sponsorship field by making a difference to the lives of the players and followers of GAA sports.
Through its support of the GAA All-Ireland Minor Championship, the energy company focused on the often overshadowed Minor players (under-18s) with its ethos of “There’s nothing minor about playing Minor”. For players, their coaches, family and friends, Electric Ireland promoted the idea that "This Is Major".
Electric Ireland gave a voice to the Minor players and championed their ambition and dedication to their sport. Through these voices, Electric Ireland engaged its target audiences and effected change, delivering impactful and positive media coverage and increasing affinity scores.
While Electric Ireland is the country’s leading energy supplier, it is a young brand, less than four years old, facing several challenges. Tasked with engaging a large and complex customer base with a functional and non-visible product, sponsorship was identified as a critical method to deliver brand cut-through and affinity. Electric Ireland has been partner to the GAA Minor Championships since 2012. In the past, awareness of the sponsorship had been low due to the GAA's clutterred environment and because the 22 GAA sponsors tended to use similar creative ideas.
Research showed that the Minors as a group were somewhat misrepresented, forgotten and left in the wake of their senior counterparts. Electric Ireland decided to give a voice to these young sportsmen.
Following the success of the #ThisIsMajor television commercial, launched in August 2014, the energy provider built on this campaign in 2015 by looking more deeply into the culture of the Minor Championships to unearth what it is that makes these young men and the Minor Championships so unique.
By recognising and exploring the crucial developmental stage these players are at in their lives, the concept of coming of age became the backbone of the sponsorship. Electric Ireland showed it understood what it’s like to be a 17-year-old player by bringing to life the #ThisisMajor ideal.
It highlighted key moments and experiences from a minor player’s coming-of-age life stage (and those of their teenage peers), championing the players' dedication to their sport and giving them a voice with which to speak to a nation.
The objective was to reenergise Electric Ireland’s sponsorship and introduce a new perspective to sports sponsorship by empowering the players. The principle goals were to:
- Deliver increased brand affinity through the Minor sponsorship
- Make a Difference: ensure Electric Ireland’s partnership with the GAA Minor Championships was something that brought meaning to the players, their managers and families.
- Effect change: challenge audiences to think and feel differently about the Minors and Electric Ireland.
- Stand out: continue to challenge what has been done before in the GAA sponsorship space to differentiate Electric Ireland from its competitors and other GAA sponsors.
- Engage: deliver impactful, relevant and positive media coverage.
- Inspire pride: increase the profile of the Championships and attendance at the games.
Electric Ireland’s television commercial #ThisIsMajor ran on national television and social media throughout the 2015 Championship season. The insight of ‘There is nothing minor about playing Minors’ was showcased through the coming-of-age stories depicted. It showed how these players are embarking on their adult lives, many are about to finish school and start college and they have hopes, dreams and ambitions.
It went beyond traditional GAA advertising and elevated the stature and understanding of the Minor players’ lives through a series of scenes, including training, matches, school, exams, romance and the Debs end-of-year school dance. It featured Minor players, not actors, to capture the energy of what it means to be a Minor GAA player. The television commerical set the scene for the entire #ThisIsMajor campaign.
Ahead of one of the most important moments in a teenager's life – the Leaving Certificate exams – and through the platform most relevant to teenagers, the Minor campaign was launched digitally with a video featuring Austin Gleeson (Waterford hurler) and Jack McCaffrey (Dublin footballer). These two former Minors, now heroes to the new generation, brought relevance to the campaign so by sharing their 'Leaving Cert' experiences and offering advice to those about to sit the exams whilst also looking to the exciting summer ahead.
#ThisIsMajor was then launched nationally with a photocall, video and media interviews with Minors and Seniors who had played Minors themselves. The photocall brought to life all the elements that make a Minor player from school life, to the Debs and the sports of hurling and football.
Media partnerships with TheJournal.ie, The42.ie, SportsJoe. ie, Balls.ie and Hoganstand.com sparked new conversations about the Minors, their lives and sport, and inspired reminiscences of other major moments and teenage memories from people's lives.
It was crucial that the company got internal buy-in from its 6,000 staff for the sponsorship. A €30,000 'GAA Staff Fund' was established giving Electric Ireland staff the chance to win €1,500 for their GAA club. Twenty clubs received the bursary which received nationwide coverage across regional media. Ticket competitions also ran throughout the season with key customers and stakeholders invited to watch the Minor games in Croke Park stadium, Dublin.
As the Provincial finals approached, two emotive videos were created and seeded to online media and through social media. Both explored the family dynamics and support structures critical to a Minor’s development.
The first followed the journey of injured Cork hurling captain Shane Kingston and his father. The video explored the highs, lows, aspirations and positive attitudes of father and son as Shane made his recovery.
The second video told the story of Galway footballer Ciaran Brady and his mother as they prepared for his final season playing Minor and his move to Cork for university in September.
Both videos explored the challenges these young men faced and resonated with their target audiences, receiving strong engagement online.
Man of the Match awards were presented at each provincial final and All-Ireland semi-finals and finals and seeded to regional media.
The sponsorship activation around the All-Ireland finals produced creative and iconic #ThisIsMajor imagery featuring the four team captains that would resonate with their peers. Media were invited to interview the four captains so they could tell their own stories, not through a manager or backroom team. This continued to raise awareness and provide a platform for the players to be heard through the national sports media.
A series of ticket competitions were run for the semi-finals and finals nationally, with print media and regionally, with local radio, from the competing teams’ counties. This helped to give the Minor fixtures a stronger profile alongside the ticketed senior game and gave fans the opportunity to show their support on matchday.
Something New: #ThisIsMajor – The Debs
Electric Ireland chose another major moment from the life of a Minor in the form of the Debs end-of-year school dance to create new content that would resonate with the Minors, but also engage GAA fans. Traditional award ceremonies don’t resonate with teenagers. A different approach was needed that gave the players the chance to be celebrated by their peers. #ThisIsMajor – The Debs was created. A digital Debs campaign was launched with two content pieces from Jackie Tyrell (Kilkenny hurler) and Michael Darragh MacAuley (Dublin footballer) asking fans to share their old Deb photos to win tickets to the hurling final.
- The eight semi-finalist teams nominated a fellow teammate that brought meaning to ‘There’s nothing minor about playing Minors’. Each winner was invited to Dublin for a total Debs experience with GAA styleicon Jackie Tyrell that included grooming in the barbers, styling in one of Dublin’s top suit shops and €500 to spend on their Debs.
- Photography was issued to regional media which celebrated the accomplishments of these Minors for reaching this stage of the Championship.
Making a difference
- Electric Ireland engaged with the Minors through the channels they want to be communicated through.
- Told their life stories from their perspective and championed them to their peers.
- Through the Debs campaign, Electric Ireland celebrated the players from the eight semi-finalists teams for their achievement, as nominated by their peers, and provided them with a reward relevant to them.
- #ThisIsMajor TV ad has been watched by 350,000 people
- Awareness has grown from 22 per cent in August 2014 to 37 per cent in August 2015
- Opportunities to see and hear: 29,512,935 compared to 6,422,943 in 2014
- Total PR editorial value: €3,138,576 compared to €2,707,395 in 2014
- Total above-the-line equivalent: €1,046,192
- 800,000 watched the #ThisIsMajor player video series online
- 6m people were reached by the #ThisIsMajor campaign across social media
- #ThisIsMajor videos were broadcast live before the Minor finals on TG4, an Irish language television channel
- 25 per cent said they would be more likely to attend a Minor game because of Electric Ireland’s campaign.
- 26 per cent would recommend Electric Ireland to a friend due to this sponsorship
- “It has been a hugely successful campaign that works at every level” – Diarmaid Murphy, GAA commercial and sponsorship manager
- Awareness for Electric Ireland as a sponsor rose from 76 per cent (pre-campaign) to 80 per cent (post-campaign)
- 24 per cent reported that they knew the sponsors of the Minor Championship after the campaign in comparison to 19 per cent pre-campaign
- 33 per cent mentioned that the campaign made them think differently about Electric Ireland as a result of their Minor sponsorship compared to 23 per cent in 2014
- 20 per cent identified with Minor players because of Electric Ireland’s involvement with the Championship compared to 15 per cent in 2014. Standing out
- 32 per cent could name Electric Ireland as sponsor compared to 22 per cent for GAA sponsor AIB.
Lisa Browne, head of marketing, Electric Ireland, said: "Our Electric Ireland Minor Championship sponsorship campaign aims to capture the dynamic energy of what it means to be a Minor GAA player and aims to elevate appreciation of the Minor Championships. These players are embarking on their adult lives, many are about to finish school and start college, they have hopes and dreams and ambitions, but for a brief moment in time, the Electric Ireland Minor Championships is the major thing in their lives. We truly believe that there is nothing minor about playing Minor – This Is Major. We have worked closely together with the GAA to bring this platform to life as success benefits both of us as partners."
Diarmaid Murphy, commercial and sponsorship manager, GAA, said: "Working with Electric Ireland as a sponsor has been very fruitful. We have a very respectful relationship and, thanks to Electric Ireland, the GAA has been involved at every step of the way and therefore we very much feel an ownership and its something we have become equally proud of. It has been a hugely successful campaign and works at every level."