Allied Irish Banks and Gaelic Athletic Association: the perfect sports sponsorship

Sports sponsorship has changed dramatically in recent years. No longer is a perimeter board or other physical branding at an arena or stadium the best way of reaching an audience.

Sure, that brand is right in front of the fans that are attending matches. And that may be the case for those watching on TV. But so are numerous messages from a whole host of other brands – it simply becomes wallpaper.

There are a few big names out there that we feel are getting it right at the moment (and some smaller ones too).

One of my personal favourites is Allied Irish Banks’ sponsorship of GAA Football in Ireland. I thought I’d take a look at how they have taken their long-standing sponsorship and given it a new lease of life.

A match made in heaven?

AIB have been supporting the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Football for the past 25 years in various different forms. On paper, it seems like a match made in heaven with an Irish brand supporting one of the most popular sports in the country.

What makes this partnership so intriguing is that, in AIB’s own words, their partnership had become ‘tired’. They lacked originality and creativity in the way that they were executing their long-standing partnership.

In 2013, AIB refreshed their thinking, focusing on creating engaging content for GAA fans to give them a fully immersive experience. This allowed them to delve deeper into the GAA Football world and to get to know their footballing heroes.

Their first exploration of this was a video series named ‘The Toughest Trade’. GAA players swapped sports with other sports stars to see how they coped.

Videos and exclusive interviews have become the norm across sponsors’ social media channels, but AIB have taken this to new levels with an entire TV series comprising of 50-minute documentaries. This level of production and content is an impressive way to engage with not only fans, but also a wider audience.

Capturing the match-day passion is definitely the way to a sports fan’s heart. Providing this to those that are unable to attend is a surefire way to engage fans with a positive experience. AIB managed to do this effectively with the use of Virtual Reality and 360 degree video capture.

Add to this an active social media community with over 90k likes on their sponsorship Facebook page and 37k followers on Twitter, AIB have managed to build up an impressive level of brand engagement and awareness.

What can be learnt

For potential and current sponsors, a lot can be learnt from AIB’s rejuvenated sponsorship of the GAA:

  • Never take the partnership for granted. Always look for innovative ways to breathe a new lease of life into the sponsorship
  • Content is king. Provide fans with the content that they want to see, when they want to see it and allow them to consume it in a way that suits them
  • Don’t be limited to traditional methods. Documentary style content is certainly not the norm but has provided success for AIB through research of their target audience
  • Use your budget wisely. Sponsorship is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Understanding your audience’s needs is the key is to recognising what works for them

Nick Sankey, Senior Account Manager