Introduction

Before the drawn Kilkenny versus Galway 2012 All Ireland Hurling Final there hadn’t been a drawn Hurling final since 1959. But then like the proverbial bus, drawn Hurling finals quickly followed in 2013 and 2014.

And up until a few days ago there hadn’t been a drawn All-Ireland Football Final since 2000 when Kerry and Galway couldn’t be separated. Fortunately the gods have smiled upon us once more and after a chaotic and captivating final between Mayo and Dublin on September 18th we will be treated to a tantalising replay this Saturday.

It feels as if all of Ireland are talking about this fixture and will tune in. Will Mayo end their Red Sox like curse since the fabled double winning team of 1951? Or will Dublin win back to back titles and firmly establish themselves as one of the greatest football teams of this or any other era? Fortunately we only have hours to wait to find out.

At Livewire we were interested to know and understand the dynamics of an All-Ireland Football Final replay versus the drawn equivalent. “The Livewire GAA All-Ireland Football Final Insider” will assess how the replay will impact the broadcasters, the sponsors and the fans.

The Livewire GAA All-Ireland Football Final Insider is brought to you by Livewire (“The Complete Sponsorship Agency”) and are part of the Core Media Group which is Ireland’s largest media communications group.

 

  1. The Broadcasters

Major Sporting Events TV Viewership Levels

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Source: Nielsen/TechEdge. Above does not include online viewing.

As we can see from the above chart, the All-Ireland Football Final holds pole position in Irish TV viewership when compared to the other major sporting finals in recent years. The average viewership level for the drawn football final on RTE was 928,000 viewers. This was followed by the 2014 World Cup Final which pulled in 860,000 viewers and this year’s Hurling Final which attracted 786,000 viewers.

It is important to give context to the above figures to show the position which sports broadcasting holds in Ireland. Below is a small number of some of the highest viewed shows on RTE in 2015:

  • The Late Late Show (live first shows on Friday nights over 2015): 558,000
  • Fair City (average viewership figure over 2015): 447,900
  • Nine O’Clock News (average viewership over 2015): 444,600

Source: Nielsen/TechEdge. Above does not include online viewing.

Predicted impact of a replay on viewing figures:

As Dublin and Mayo are set to clash again in this much anticipated replay, we must consider the effect that a replay may have on viewership figures. As the original match attracted almost 930,000 viewers on average, we can make a prediction of how many will tune in to the replay based on past data.

  • For the 2014 Senior Hurling Championship Final replay between heavyweights Tipperary and Kilkenny there was a reduction in RTE’s average viewers of 23% from the original final (796,070) to the replay (614,490).
  • The 2013 Senior Hurling Championship Final replay between Clare and Cork saw a 28% decrease in average viewers i.e. 889,380 (drawn game) versus 638,190 (replay).
  • The 2012 Senior Hurling Championship Final replay between Galway and Kilkenny saw a 15% reduction in average viewers i.e. 900,790 (drawn game) versus 764,580 (replay).

However the 2015 Senior Football Championship semi-final replay between Dublin and Mayo saw only a 1% decrease in RTE’s average viewership from the original match up i.e. 682,590 (drawn game) versus 679,060 (replay).

Factors which may have led to a drop in viewership as seen above include the fact that recent replays have been played on a Saturday (a day when many people work) and a slightly later throw in of 5pm rather than the traditional 3.30pm.

It is only based on one match but it does appear that a Dublin versus Mayo Football Final replay will behave differently to the Hurling replays mentioned above. The main reasons are as follows:

  1. Dublin being the largest population centre by far will contribute large viewership levels
  2. Mayo chasing their first title since 1951 and all the associated hype
  3. Football finals rate higher than their Hurling equivalent as they tend to generate a broader national appeal

Based on all of the above we estimate that the replay between Dublin and Mayo will draw an average viewership figure of around 881,600 which equates to a 5% viewership decrease versus the drawn final.

RTE versus SKY viewership:

It is also important that we compare how the GAA Championships have performed on Sky (the second broadcaster of the Championships in ROI) as well. In truth the viewership levels for Sky are minuscule in comparison to RTE. The gap is illustrated below:

 

RTE vs Sky 2016 GAA Finals Viewership Levels

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 Source: Nielsen/TechEdge. Does not include online viewing.

While the average viewership level for the drawn football final on RTE was 928,000, the corresponding figure for Sky was 10,000. We estimate that approx. 7,000 people will tune into Sky to watch the replay on Saturday.

Up for The Match, RTE’s popular companion show which runs on the eve of both the All-Ireland Football and Hurling finals is not scheduled when replays are concerned. This is as the replay is on Saturday and thus Up For the Match would likely clash with The Late Late Show.

 

The Broadcasters & Their Advertisers

First of all the real winners are those advertisers who bought RTE’s premium GAA Championship package, as any advertiser which bought this 10 spot package (which included spots for the Football and Hurling quarter finals, semi-finals and finals) at a cost of €120,000 – before individual client discounts were applied – automatically receive a spot in the replay on Saturday at no additional charge.

However any advertiser who bought specifically into RTE’s coverage of the drawn football final only and paid a rate card rate of €30,000 for a 30 second spot – again before client discounts were applied – does not receive a spot in the replay automatically. However those advertisers do have the opportunity to buy into the replay at a discounted rate of €22,500 (also the 30 second spot rate).

However our research has shown that there is significantly less interest among media buyers in buying spots for the replay than for the drawn match, indicating that budgets set aside for this area have already been spent.

Many advertisers who bought the 10 spot GAA package mentioned above are companies who are already sponsors of the GAA e.g. AIB, Liberty, Lidl and Electric Ireland – a clear indication that GAA sponsors are willing to invest in their support of their properties on television.

As Euro 2016 and the Olympics this year both attracted large commercial revenue, we are not surprised to see that advertisers who do not have a connection with the GAA may not be as interested in buying into these expensive GAA broadcast packages.

There has already been extensive media coverage around Sky’s relatively poor ratings for their GAA coverage. Sky broadcast 20 games during the Football and Hurling Championship including the Hurling and Football finals. However unlike RTE, Sky did not sell a premium spot package in their coverage to media buyers.

 

2. The Sponsors

All three All Ireland Football Championship sponsors invested in activation programmes in the run up to the drawn Football Final on September 18th.

AIB

AIB has built a long term strategy, beginning at the start of the year with their sponsorship of the All-Ireland Club Championships, continuing through to their sponsorship of the Senior Football Championship.

In the run up to All-Ireland final day, AIB built a partnership with Joe/SportsJoe.ie which included a sponsorship of the GAA Hour Podcast with Colm Parkinson and took the podcast format on the road with shows in Castlebar and Dublin in the days leading up to the final.capture3 Other AIB activations included a heavy social media presence which resulted in #TheToughest trending on the day of the final, a spectacular 360 virtual reality video of Dublin fans on Hill 16 which allowed people to immerse themselves in a match day atmosphere, tactical outdoor placements including an impressive takeover of Connolly Station promoting AIB’s “Club Fuels County” platform and an interactive format in the train station which acted as a fan sentiment tracker and gave supporters the chance to win tickets to the game. There was also a repeat viewing of the “Toughest Trade” TV programme on RTE before the final which was supported by AIB’s Twitter channel. Finally AIB supported all of the above with its “Club Fuels County” creative on TV.

We see that AIB has continued its activation in the run up to the replay albeit at reduced levels.  They have continued with a scaled down version of their advertising domination in Connolly Station. AIB has benefited from an additional broadcast of the “Toughest Trade” TV programme on RTE, again with support on AIB’s Twitter channel, to drive interaction from the show with their followers. AIB has also bought TV airtime for “Club Fuels County” in the run up to the replay.

Supervalu

Supervalu’s major GAA activation this year has been their “Kits to Clubs scheme” which awarded juvenile O’Neill’s kits worth over €360,000 to over 400 clubs around the country. This was promoted across radio and TV over the summer.

The brand also has a relationship with star Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan, who appears in their television adverts promoting the healthy, local choices available at the retailer.capture5

SuperValu’s main activation for the replay is their sponsorship of the coverage on the sports website The42.ie as well as an activation at the National Ploughing Championships, where a panel featuring ex-Dublin footballer Alan Brogan (brother of Bernard), Marty Morrisey and Hector O’Heochagáin discussed the upcoming replay.

Eir

Eir positioned themselves smartly in a crowded sponsorship space, by focusing their campaign over the summer on the sophisticated science based preparation which is required at the top level of Gaelic games.capture6

The eir GAA 30” TV campaign featured Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor training with the assistance of sports technology and science, highlighting how preparation is measured and monitored in the modern game. This was augmented on eir’s social media channels where GAA fans were provided matchday data.

In the run up to the replay eir has continued its high level of engagement through their social media channels as well as encouraging fans to visit their dedicated page to make score predictions. Eir are also encouraging fans to tag themselves in the Croke Park match day fan pic to win prizes including tickets to the replay.capture7

AIB, Supervalu and eir as sponsors of the All-Ireland  Senior Football Championship all have the rights to in-stadium advertising, both around the ground and at pitchside. As such, news of a replay will be music to the ears of all these sponsors who will now see their prominent signage receive another 70 minutes of peak exposure to a huge TV audience at no extra cost!

AIG

AIG who are sponsors of the Dublin Football team built their campaign this season around the platform #BackingEveryStep. Throughout the season AIG Insurance helped fans support the Dubs with ticket and merchandise giveaways through Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #BackingEveryStep.

The sponsor also created a series of #DublinOurTeam episodes featuring GAA players from both the mens’ and ladies’ teams telling their stories, The episode featuring former player Alan Brogan has gained around 100k views to date on Facebook.capture8

 

AIG also leveraged their relationship with the All Blacks by posting a video of New Zealand players wishing Dublin good luck for the final.

For the replay AIG has continued to use its Head Office in Dublin’s Docklands to display a large banner depicting the Dublin jersey. AIG has also run a promotion or tickets to the replay on the popular Ray D’Arcy show.

 

 

Elverys

In the run up to the drawn final, Mayo team sponsor Elverys created a stirring video on what one All-Ireland title would mean to the county, which to date has recorded over 94,000 views on YouTube.capture10

The sporting retailer also ran a ticket promotion, looking for Mayo’s most passionate supporters and created a ‘Crossbar Challenge’ video which featured on their Twitter and Facebook channels.

In the run up to the replay, Elverys has conducted social media activity focusing on giveaways,including jerseys and those all-important final replay tickets. We also expect further social media activity from the retailer on matchday.

 

The Sponsors – Main Findings

In summary, all three sponsors of the Football Championship in addition to the team sponsors have spent significant sums activating their sponsorship of the championship in novel and engaging ways.

However it is clear to us that the replay has proven to be a real challenge for these sponsors. The above shows that large scale activations like those seen for the drawn final have not been replicated for the replay. Most GAA Football sponsor budgets were planned to end as soon as the final whistle was blown on September 18th. Finding new budgets to support the replay at such short notice is a big ask for sponsors, especially as the critical Q4 including Christmas is upon us. Sponsorship is just one element of a sponsor’s marketing budget and it is probably unrealistic to think that significant sums from other areas of a marketing budget would be found for this purpose. Our research has shown that more cost efficient channels such as social media will likely be leveraged most for the replay.

Also the lack of availability of TV airtime and suitable outdoor signage space at short notice are major obstacles when planning for a replay within a two week window.

It is clear to us at Livewire that the best approach for such an eventuality is to build a contingency budget at the start of the planning stage for possible replays – perhaps approx. 10% of the overall sponsorship budget – so that sufficient plans can be implemented and afforded. If not required, this unspent portion could be easily absorbed into the overall marketing budget.

Such budget contingency planning would mean that the excellent sponsor activations during the summer can be brought right through to the ultimate conclusion of the Championship.

 

3. The Fans

The number of fans passionately interested in the All-Ireland Football final is far more than the lucky 82,257 souls who manage to find a ticket to the match. Using Google search trends, we can see what got fans talking before, during and after the drawn game and what they are interested in as the replay draws closer.

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Unsurprisingly fans’ interest in searching terms such as “All Ireland Final 2016” and “All Ireland 2016” saw a huge increase in the days leading up to the drawn game. However, what may come as a surprise is that these search terms were actually more popular on the day of the All-Ireland Hurling Final on September 4th. The optimists amongst us saw a peak search for “All Ireland Tickets” on September 18th, the day of the drawn final.

 

In the immediate aftermath of the drawn final focus understandably turned to the replay.

It is notable that it was on the day of the drawn game itself that searches such as “All Ireland Final Replay” and “All Ireland Replay 2016” hit peaks, showing how instantaneous the shift in attention was. Some sharp fans were already thinking ahead to ways of making it to Croke Park to see the sides do battle again as searches for tickets for the replay peaked on the day of the drawn game also.

A first drawn football final in 16 years was a shock to the system of fans but it did not mean that they forgot about the old reliables, as searches for “The Sunday Game” spiked on the night of the drawn final. Fans were not put off by the upset to the traditional format, with the programme unable to run its usual course of being broadcast live from the winning team’s banquet.capture12

While search items relating to the replay spiked as early as the day of the drawn game, activity has stepped up another level as we draw closer to the big day. All search terms relating to the replay, such as “All Ireland Final Replay” and “All Ireland Replay 2016” have performed well in the week leading up to the game, hitting a peak on September 25th as fans were perhaps inspired to get in the mood for the replayed final by the exploits of the Cork and Dublin Ladies Football teams in their thrilling final.

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As ever, the search for tickets has continued, with fans still frantically looking for “a man who knows a man” who might have a spare ticket! Meanwhile in the past seven days the top location in Ireland searching for “gaa tickets” on Google was Castlebar – who are obviously confident in their county’s chances, closely followed by Swords and Lucan, whose residents both obviously fancy Dublin’s chances!

 

The Fans – Main Findings

What is clear from our research is that the All-Ireland Football final, whether it be the drawn game or this eagerly anticipated replay, has gotten fans talking.

It is interesting to note that searches for terms relating to the “All Ireland final” were more prevalent before the hurling final than before the drawn football final, while it is also notable that the vast bulk of the searches for the football final took place on the day of the game itself, prompting us to ask were fans already well prepared in advance or did they only attempt to engage with the event on matchday?

It is testament to the commitment and passion of GAA fans that searches related to the replay in the immediate aftermath of the initial game took place on the day of that very game; there was little time for either set of fans to dwell on what they had seen only a few hours before.

It is also significant, and hugely encouraging for Ladies Football, that fans searches surrounding the replay for the men’s final hit a peak on the day of the Dublin vs. Cork Ladies football final and suggests that GAA fans are engaging right across the association’s codes.

Finally, it is worth noting that both before the drawn game and in its aftermath there has been a consistent number of searches for match tickets; they do say God loves a trier!

Best of luck to both Mayo and Dublin. Looking forward to another thrilling final!