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Q&A with John Trainor, CEO and Founder of Onside

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Thursday 8 October 2015
Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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    How has the rugby fan base changed in recent years, and what might that mean for sponsors of major events like the Rugby World Cup?

    Rugby itself has evolved as a sport greatly in the past decade, attracting a more diverse body of fans and participants and becoming more global in its reach. Women’s participation in rugby, for example, has increased by 20% in only the last year, with an estimated 1.7 million women and girls now involved in the sport. Rugby’s expanding geographical appeal is evident in this year’s World Cup, as well. The RFU expects nearly half a million international fans to travel to the U.K. over the six-week event, more than in any previous Rugby World Cup. This suggests that sponsors who integrate a more diverse and global perspective into their campaigns will engage a wider audience, a strategy that will prove beneficial to long-term success as brands look forward to 2019, when the Rugby World Cup will be held in Asia for the first time.

    How might effective sponsorship strategies for the Rugby World Cup differ, if at all, from those of other major sporting events?

    The Rugby World Cup is different from other comparable sporting events in that there isn’t an over-abundance of player celebrity spotlighting to capitalize on for brand awareness. Many rugby athletes have yet to reach the international stardom surrounding other professional sports, like football, and this presents its own unique set of challenges to effective sponsorship. Both the RFU and its associated partners have focused instead on emphasizing camaraderie, communal belonging, and other shared character-building values of the sport to build positive associations in the minds of consumers. Much of the team-centric rhetoric has been activated through grassroots initiatives to increase rugby participation and enjoyment across the globe by World Rugby, as well as major sponsors like Land Rover and Coca Cola.

    Social media has become a hot button for effective marketing campaigns, both during major events and for continued customer outreach. How have brands been approaching social media as an engagement tool during the Rugby World Cup?

    Social media marketing is indeed a hot button, especially when implemented with the right level of authenticity. The most prominent trend I’ve noticed is the way brands are emphasizing community and shared values, themes that have been at the core of this Rugby World Cup, to connect fans through social media. These themes actually translate quite naturally, as social media platforms are essentially realms to create “community” with others around the world. Dove played off of this relationship nicely with their #ScrumTogether campaign, which celebrated moments of friendship and unity during the event, on Twitter. Other successful examples include Land Rover’s #WeDealnReal campaign, which invited amateur rugby players to share their team stories through social media, and O2’s #WearTheRose campaign to encourage solidarity with England’s rugby team amongst its supporters.

    Are there any really interesting or unusual activation strategies that you’ve noticed during this year’s Rugby World Cup?

    It’s been fascinating to watch how emerging technologies, specifically virtual and augmented reality, have been used to engage fans in entirely new ways during this Rugby World Cup. An exciting piece of sponsorship activation was the Blippar AR app, which allows attendees to scan their World Cup tickets for special augmented reality content. And it’s not only tech companies that are promoting their brands through these platforms; AIG, for example, released a virtual reality app to provide New Zealand fans with a 360° view of the All Blacks’ haka. Technology is really providing us with new opportunities to create memorable associations.

    How do you think the Rugby World Cup is benefitting Irish sponsors and businesses, if at all?

    The Rugby World Cup holds great potential for Irish brands to reach fans and supporters at home, and industry practitioners would agree. Our Industry survey research indicates that 50% of sponsors see the Rugby World Cup as an opportunity to engage with consumers in Ireland, with 45% of both sponsors and rights holders viewing rugby as the strongest opportunity for growth of their business through sponsorship this year. Creating a partnership with the Irish Rugby Team has been, perhaps, the most obvious way to use the event for customer engagement, and companies that emphasize Irish heritage and pride, like Aer Lingus, have done so especially well.

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    Social Media & Product Placement

    Posted By Vizeum, Monday 28 September 2015
    Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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    Advertising happens on every social platform. Whether it has been formally monetised or not is irrelevant; people (and brands) will find a way to promote on every corner of the internet, guerrilla-style or otherwise. Product placement in social is a bit of a grey area at present, but for brands and influencers alike, it’s proven too lucrative to pass up.

    Now often employed as a brand’s sole tactic, product placement on these platforms may be ‘brave’ in traditional terms, but understandable when you see the reach and high frequency that a lot of the ‘newer’ social platforms hold. In the most recent Social Messaging Quarterly, daily use of Snapchat usage was higher than any other platform (and 10% ahead of WhatsApp) at 63%.

    Some Irish influencers are reporting (and screenshotting) as many as 40k views on their public Snapchat stories. This is incredible, especially when compared to YouTube and Facebook video. It’s even more interesting to consider that all views are organic, and makes for the perfect product or brand placement opportunity. Influencers in most categories are used to talking about and reviewing products in a native tone of voice, and Snapchat is a great way to extend the reach of any campaign when working with any socially ‘famous’ figure.

    The self-destructing nature of content on Snapchat means that there is not much of a trail for the likes of the ASAI to follow (save for screenshots). It’s certainly imperative for advertisers request records of all paid activity on the platform, as well as the view count.

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    Given the popularity of Instagram with youth audiences, it’s unsurprising that Instagram is actually becoming a bit cluttered in terms of sponsored content and product features – though not all are disclosed as such.

    Another nice and less utilised tactic is to do a sponsored Instagram ‘takeover’. An influencer (or several) may create ‘guest posts’ on a brand account for an agreed period, and also encourage their own followers to engage with this content, which works very well in increasing affinity and following for brand accounts. With paid advertising approaching fast on Instagram for Ireland, we may see a slow-down in the ‘native’ approach as advertisers test capabilities on the ad platform.

    The procedure for disclosure on these platforms is a bit hazy, to say the least. There is no clear standard set out by the ASAI, but best practice is of course to be upfront. Using #ad or #spon is a good safeguard against backlash and even if legal guidelines are not in place, advertisers are best placed to uphold a good standard of integrity and honesty across the board.

    Hear from Vizeum at the next Marketing Breakfast

    On October 21st, Vizeum’s speakers Jane Madden, Head of Strategy and Meabh Connellan, Head of Digital, will be speaking about  – ‘The Truth About Content – Understanding the role of content and how you can leverage it to enhance your brand strategy.’ You can register to attend here

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    “Ireland has a great chance of winning” – Columnists Launch INM Rugby World Cup Coverage

    Posted By, Friday 18 September 2015
    Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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      The level of expectation is at an all time high – but top rugby analysts have predicted that Ireland has gone to a whole new level and has ‘a real shot’ in the World Cup.
      But France could emerge as the real danger, former International Mick Galwey has warned.

      At an exclusive Rugby World Cup 2015 launch hosted by Independent News & Media, Ireland’s top rugby pundits, Tony Ward, Neil Francis, Mick Galwey, former Leinster player Isa Nacewa and leading writer Vincent Hogan expressed their hopes for an exciting showdown.

      Some 20 years after he had last played in the World Cup, Neil Francis admitted he still cannot watch some matches now, saying: “I just get so wound up about them” and that he  ‘couldn’t watch’ last year’s Six Nations.
      Nevertheless, he still wants an ‘entertaining’ World Cup this year. “The World Cup has to be entertaining but the product has not matched expectation,” he claimed. He said there must be four or five ‘brilliant’ matches that capture the imagination.

      Those present at the panel discussion in Dublin included CEO of INM Robert Pitt; Editor in Chief at INM, Stephen Rae and board members including Jerome Kennedy, as well as Group Sports Head of Content, Dave Courtney. Guests included Senator Shane Ross and key marketing and advertising clients of INM from agencies such as Starcom and Irish International.

      Mr Rae said the night’s event was about showcasing INM as a key rugby brand on this island, with the best rugby writers.

      Recovering from an ear infection, Irish rugby legend Tony Ward said the level of expectation was at an all-time high – and deservedly so –  as Ireland prepares for the World Cup, with the first match against Canada. Describing Joe Schmidt as “the top coach in the world”, he said we were very fortunate who we have in control at the moment. “There’s a strength and depth we haven’t had in a considerable amount of time,” he added. He predicted that the first two games against Canada and then Romania should be easy ones – but things will get tougher with the Italy game. But the finish off against France on October 11 “will decide our World Cup in so many ways,” he said. Ireland were excited going to France in 2007 – but it backfired badly. This time round, we’re in with a real shot, he predicted.

      Former Ireland International Mick Galwey echoed his words, saying Ireland has given great results, has shown a lot of bottle and has gone to a whole new level. “This time round I think we’re in with a great chance,” he said. Meanwhile he expressed hope that the players and Joe Schmidt would have a few tricks up their sleeve. “My real worry is France,” he said, given that they have been away to camps and are a “rugby world cup side. The most important thing is that we don’t get any injuries. If not, we’ll have a great chance,” he added.

      Former Leinster player, Isa Nacewa revealed that it was only at the gripping end of the last Six Nations that New Zealand finally realised the powerhouse of  Irish rugby. That was when the hairs finally stood up on the back of everyone’s necks and they started to take notice, he claimed. He will be wearing his “Irish hat” during the World Cup, he said – though he has spent the last 18 months to two years living Down Under.

      This article was originally written by Nicola Anderson and published on

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      Digital has Forced us to Make Things That People Care About

      Posted By, Friday 18 September 2015
      Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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        I love this recent quote from Bob Greenberg, founder of R/GA:

        Digital has forced us to make things that people care about.

        His words are a clue to the future of the marketing services landscape we can expect by 2030. Historically our business has created demand by paying actors to play out consumer aspirations on film. But today we’ve recognised the need to create authentic stories and interactions that real people engage with, care about, power and propel across their peer networks in a heartbeat.

        We talk about a connected world today but in truth we’ve only scratched the surface of how consumers will relate with brands tomorrow and beyond as technologies such as 3D, wearables, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mobile commerce and programmatic advertising develop and mature. Then there’s the technologies we haven’t seen yet but which will come for certain.

        What will change? Simply everything.

        Will we still call it Marketing? I’m not sure we will. A customers experience at any touchpoint is influenced by everything from supply chain, brand, customer service, finance, human resource and everything else in the organisation so why should one entity be charged with managing the customer relationship with the brand?

        Will we still be selling ads? Not for much longer. The sphere of product and service design developments being created by tech driven companies for brands today will eclipse the traditional “Ad” business. Just look at as an excellent example of product innovation creating a story around safety for Volvo and we can see where brands will shift to in order to create a meaningful role in their consumers life.

        Will we still need agencies? Certainly not in their current form. We’ve more and more experts around the table today to cater for the growing number of silo disciples that add to the complexity of brand communication and activation.

        What will matter is not how many agencies but the orientation of the people around the table. We will only need three profiles – Visionaries, Storytellers and Performance specialists all focused on building a brand and consumer relationship that zeros in on the totality of the consumer experience with the brand.

        By 2030, we will look back at how slow, inefficient, bloated and fragmented our marketing services approach was in 2015 and hopefully be making things that consumers genuinely care about.

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        Q&A with David Jago, Director of Innovation & Insight, Mintel

        Posted By Mintel, Wednesday 16 September 2015
        Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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        1. The Food industry has seen diets and food fads come and go. Are ‘Free From’ foods a passing phase?

        No, we don’t think so! Around two in five households in the UK report free from diets, despite just 2% of the population being allergic to common foods. In the Republic of Ireland, 8% of consumers in Mintel research say that they avoid gluten or wheat. Many of the avoiders do so as part of a “generally healthy lifestyle”, indicating that consumers readily buy into a very broad repertoire of foods including the overtly healthy (low fat, low calorie, low sugar), organic foods, free from foods, and more. For these consumers, free from is part of the overall health & wellness picture. It’s also worth noting that free from foods have grown steadily over time, across diverse markets – in contrast to diet fads like low carb, which grew very rapidly in the mid-2000s and practically disappeared just as quickly.

        2. Traditionally, ‘Sugar free,’ ‘gluten free,’ ‘lactose free,’ were often quoted as being ‘fun free’ because of poor taste. What are the main drivers of these niche foods being pushed into the trolley of the mainstream consumer?

        The market for free from foods has come a long way since the early days of free from fun, free from flavour! As the market has moved increasingly mainstream, so producers have needed to formulate better quality, better-tasting products to meet the demands of consumers for whom free from is a choice, not a necessity. The key to success is taste with health, and indulgence values are increasingly promoted front-of-pack. Indeed, taste has been a key driver behind the success of indulgence-driven, free from brands like Udi’s (cereals, bakery products and snacks), and taste rather than lactose intolerance has become a key factor in the growth of dairy-free milks like almond milk, coconut milk, or cashew milk.

        3. We know Millennials are quick to adapt to change in the technology world, but how are they as food consumers?

        Millennials, by which we mean 16-34 year olds, are much more likely than average to engage in the free from lifestyle. In the UK, for example, they are 31% more likely than average to avoid red meat or poultry, and 40% more likely than average to avoid dairy, lactose, wheat or gluten. This is a generation that gets its information and dietary advice from the internet and from peers or family, rather than health professionals, so issues get “mainstreamed” quickly.

        4. With the ‘fight against sugar’ a hot topic within the media, sugar is now seen as the biggest health threat to the next generation. How will the food giants of the carbonated drinks and confectionery industry survive?

        The major players have already taken steps to counter the negatives – they have introduced more products with sugar-free or reduced sugar formulations, they’ve launched products like Coke Life with stevia (a “natural” low calorie sweetener), and they place greater focus on appropriate treating with portion control. Confectionery and soft drinks companies will shift their product portfolios further towards “better for you” options. In the meantime, consumers largely understand what they should and shouldn’t do, and what they should eat and drink in moderation – they just need to be encouraged to make the right choices, and have more of those good choices readily available.

        5. Brands are now reassessing their ingredients list because of this ‘free from’ trend, but will this cause a review of any other areas within the marketing remit?

        From the point of view of promotion and communication, better for you foods traditionally focused on “low in” claims and put the emphasis on what is not in a product. That’s likely to be further re-evaluated, as the focus shifts more to the positives of healthy eating (the goodness of wholesome ingredients), rather than the negatives of dieting and the sense of “punishment” that goes with it.

        6. If you had one piece of advice for food brands over the next 5 years, what would it be and why?

        Educate the consumer! Nowadays consumers have more information at their fingertips (nutritional advice is only an app away), yet are more sceptical than ever of the food industry. The industry needs to start explaining to consumers, in consumer-friendly terms, just what goes into a product, and why, as well as where it comes from and how it was processed to get there.

        Tags:  Food Innovation  Mintel 

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