O2’s Irish rugby sponsorship expands for 2013 despite on pitch displays

With Ireland’s 6 Nations campaign taking another unexpected and unwelcome twist at the weekend in Edinburgh, now is perhaps a good time to take a look back at how O2’s sponsorship has fared so far this year.

Taking over from Guinness as the brand most associated with the game in this country, the brand’s 2013 strategy has focused on the key message of ‘Bring on the green’, with increased digital activation and lots of high perceived value competitions.

Rugby sponsorship has essentially taken over O2’s social channels and site for the Feb-March period, while a stand alone website, Bringonthegreen.ie, offers fans and in particular O2 customers behind the scenes access to the team.

In above the line terms, the main activation has come from an atmospheric T.V. advert and accompanying print/billboard media. Using Irish outhalf and key player Johnny Sexton as the focal point, emotion and fan support is re-enforced and the ad has received over 7,000 views.

Unfortunately, there have been rumblings of an ‘O2 advert curse’ as most of the players involved in the shoot have since fallen foul to injury, while the famously short tempered YouTube commenters have also taken to abusing the team for ‘spending all their time trying to be Hollywood stars’. A winning team is always easier to get behind.

Moving back to digital, O2 have taken a leaf from Premiership club Man City, renowned for the best in class sports marketing efforts. A ‘tunnel cam’ offers fans access to the inner sanctum of the Aviva Stadium, ‘making of’ videos support an increasingly content focused strategy, while relaxed Q&A sessions with players further support the idea that O2 get unrivaled access to Irish rugby’s biggest stars, and want to give you some of that access too.

O2 have also taken to Twitter with a new standalone rugby account, utilising the #bringonthegreen hashtag and offering fans more exclusive photo and video content from the camp. For Twitter media support, the brand has made use of Twitter’s new ‘Promoted Tweets’ option, paying for specific tweets to show in the timelines of Irish Twitter users that are interested in rugby.

For offline activation, Guinness, although quieter than previous years, have again wrapped up pre match analysis nights, teaming with Today FM’s Matt Cooper show for sporadic Thursday/Friday evening events. However, O2 have engaged fans with some smaller innovative ideas.

Before the critical Ireland v. England game, O2 invited fans to ‘line the Green Mile’, by handing out branded green flags to fans on the team bus route from St. Stephen’s Green to the Aviva Stadium, while for each home game, 23 fans can win the chance to ‘guard the jersey‘ of an Irish player. This involves collecting the jersey from the Irish kit manager, bringing it under lock and key to the ground and laying it out in the dressing room, followed by a pre match meal with Irish legend Paul O’Connell. Of course, to enter this competition, you must be an O2 Ireland customer.

From last year’s grassroots ‘Be The Difference’ campaign, which was also well received, O2 have graduated this year to become more of a facilitator for fans wanting to get closer to Irish rugby.

With O2 UK sponsoring the English rugby team, and operating a similar content driven campaign (see Inside Line, a web mini series following the players), Telefonica are putting their sponsorship eggs firmly into the ‘egg chasing’ basket.

Many supporters will be watching with baited breath to
see whether the Irish coaching staff will have their contracts extended at the end of this campaign, but, with a deal set to continue to 2016, O2 will be one constant as Irish rugby looks towards the next World Cup, to be held in England in two years time.