Thursday 30 March 2017

AdLib: The rugby Gospel according to Paul

Media & Marketing with Michael Cullen

Vodafone’s Anne Mulcahy pictured with rugby stars Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Heaslip
Vodafone’s Anne Mulcahy pictured with rugby stars Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Heaslip
Insolvency Ireland's new debt ad for TV

Michael Cullen

"I was a team man first. Sometimes I hated being the bad boy at meetings, but it had to be done. My job was to call it and be the bad boy. No decision is too difficult and you live with it."

Former rugby player Paul O'Connell was speaking about the challenges he faced while lining out for Munster, Ireland and the Lions at the An Post Early Bird marketers' breakfast.

His dad was a constant encouragement to him throughout his life - always in his corner. Rugby is largely down to team work, unlike soccer where a game can be turned on its head by a moment of class. Sport has always been centre stage in his life. Growing up in Limerick, he was swimming in races at the age of five and "looking at tiles" during coaching sessions three times a week.

Playing rugby, he found coping with pre-match stress tough until he focused on the process and "minding the big rocks". Fitness was the biggest rock.

He realised there was no point in worrying about the weather and things beyond his control. "With Munster, if you didn't win a trophy at the end of the season, the whole season was a disaster - that's wrong," he insisted.

"Success in rugby became 'as good as I could be'."

By the time he got to grips with what really mattered, injuries began kicking in. He learned a lot from coaches Declan Kidney, Warren Gatland and Ireland's Joe Schmidt, who watches every game six times. Experience taught him there are practical fixes for almost everything in rugby and injuries go with the territory. On Fridays, O'Connell says he was "a nightmare" at home, a complete bag of nerves before big games.

If your stomach is in knots all day, you often wake up in the middle of the night. On match days, he would wait patiently in the changing room, while Simon Zebo would be dancing and eating a packet of wine gums. Asked about the players he most admired, O'Connell said it was hard to look beyond Brian O'Driscoll.

Ronan O'Gara wasn't the hardest trainer in the gym, but out on the training ground he was awesome. 'Rog' knew how to win games. David Wallace was another teammate he admired hugely. Now a director of Pinergy pay-as-you-go energy service and fronting for Aldi, O'Connell misses playing "a little". While professionalism has impacted badly on sport, he believes rugby is good at protecting its values. His new autobiography, 'The Battle', is published by Penguin today.

* As Leinster take on Munster at the Aviva this weekend, Vodafone has signed up two of the province's Ireland internationals, Jamie Heaslip and Robbie Henshaw, as brand ambassadors to work on events and content creation. The tie-up follows the mobile phone brand's €15m, five-year 'Team of Us' shirt deal agreed with the IRFU in June.

Anne Mulcahy, Vodafone's head of brand, said the Ireland team includes not just the 15 players on the pitch, but the support network of coaches, doctors, physios, backroom staff, families and friends, not to mention the six million fans who support Irish rugby. Together, they form the 'Team of Us'.

Vodafone will soon be announcing marketing plans around the Guinness Series, including the #TeamofUs Shirt Swap, allowing consumers a chance to buy the new Ireland jersey at half price.

* PR agency Murray has promoted senior account directors Doug Keatinge and Aoibheann O'Sullivan to the agency's senior management team. Managing director Pat Walsh has also announced the appointment of former Weber Shandwick account director Norman Pratt as an associate director. Pratt will also work closely with Murray Creative, the company's design and digital division launched last year. O'Sullivan joined Murray in 2005 having spent four years with the NTMA and two years in private sector public affairs work. Her clients include Deloitte, the Mental Health Commission (MHC) and Barretstown charity for children.

Keatinge joined the agency from FleishmanHillard four years ago. He previously was head of investor relations at Digicel, a consultant with the UN and communications manager for Oxfam. He has worked as a journalist and broadcaster with Bloomberg, RTE and Newstalk. His clients include Glanbia, Kingspan, Petroceltic and Hibernia Reit.

* Debt can be highly stressful but there's help out there. That's the message in the new TV, radio and print ads for the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI). The campaign aims to put people's minds at ease by letting them know they can get their lives back on track. Created by Irish International, with media buying by Carat, the TV ad tells how the ISI provides breathing room at critical times. A woman in a kitchen finds herself surrounded by water.

But one last desperate call provides urgent relief.

Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie: cullen@marketing.ie

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