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Irish Rugby Stars Victorious in Public Support

Posted By, Tuesday 13 October 2015
Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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    More than a year post retirement. Brian O’Driscoll has retained his number 1 status on Ireland’s most admired sports personality list, while Ireland captain Paul O’Connell made most gains in terms of public admiration of all Irish sports stars this year, according to the latest Onside StarTrack 2015, by sponsorship consultants Onside.

    17% of Irish adults singled out the ex-Irish rugby supremo O’Driscoll as the sports personality they admire most overall, while Katie Taylor was next in line at 11%, up 1% year on year as she prepares for the journey to Rio 2016.  But it was Rugby World Cup captain Paul O’Connell that has stood out as the Irish sports star making most gains in Irish public admiration across the year to date, a position converted by Onside in real terms into an extra ¼ million Irish public ‘avid fans’ of the rugby hero this year.  3 in 10 surveyed singled out a rugby star, with the collective of soccer stars next in line at 12%.

    The other sports personality showing marked positive momentum in terms of public support in the latest edition of the Onside tracker was Conor McGregor – climbing into the Top 10 for the first time at 6th place, two spots behind current Irish soccer team assistant manager Roy Keane and a 5th place Rory McIlroy (no change year on year).

    Commenting on O`Connell`s results this year,  John Trainor, Founder and CEO of Onside notes: “Paul O’Connell has gained the highest admiration scores recorded for him this decade in our research and has most likely grown this further through Rugby World Cup 2015. His support was particularly high in his native Munster where he comfortably topped the poll.”

    Trainor notes that “the battle for admiration proved particularly interesting when segmented by age, with Irish 18-24 year olds surveyed by Onside scoring Katie Taylor and Roy Keane as the personalities holding most appeal.”

    Irish soccer star Robbie Keane also made some ground in the 2015 Onside StarTrack survey, holding 7th position, with a gain of 2% year on year.  The top 10 is closed out by 3 stars that have completed the active participation phase of their careers – Henry Shefflin, Ronan O’Gara and Sonia O’Sullivan.

    And early indications from the Onside consultants are that 2016 may see a continuation of the return to positive growth in spend by brands in the personality endorsement arena. Trainor points to “brands in 2015 like Bank of Ireland that have effectively engaged with ambassadors like Shane Lowry and Irish rugby stars including Paul O’Connell and notes that a number of factors are at play that will stimulate such growth further, including interest in athletes in the run into the Olympics in Rio 2016 and Irish footballers appeal on foot of any Euros soccer qualification.”

    However Trainor cautions against brands that see personality endorsement as an easy win to build brand appeal and conversion to business growth.  “An association with a top athlete can be a highly effective way to engage with fans, but without a well-developed activation plan, it can under-perform significantly.  Low single digit outcomes are the results for many brands that fail to use this channel built on sound plans.”

    Outside of sport, The Onside StarTrack 2015 also found that Ryan Tubridy has retained the number one performance as the most admired television or radio personality in Ireland, with 12% of adults naming the RTE personality.  Meanwhile Gay Byrne is enjoying a resurgence in his appeal as he ranks second to Tubridy, ahead of Miriam O’Callaghan in 3rd place.  TV3 host Vincent Browne and Today FM breakfast host Ian Dempsey also made positive gains in the new research.

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