How you can generate a buzz out of electricity
Ireland's top sponsorships will be saluted at a gala dinner awards show in the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel tonight. Many of the usual suspects will compete for gongs, including Aer Lingus, AIG, Bord Gáis, Centra, Eason, Heineken and Three. Electric Ireland makes the shortlists in nine categories, including best entertainment and event, best sports team and best causes.
Electric Ireland is just four years old and resulted from the rebrand of the ESB when the market was deregulated.
The company vies with five other energy providers powering the 'switch 'n' save' message. Edel McCarthy, pictured below, is Electric Ireland's group sponsorship and activation manager. She's been with the company for 15 years, so she knows her way around the pylons.
The GAA minors and Electric Picnic (EP) are both big budget campaigns, but a major energy company needs a wider footprint. A record 50,000 music and arts fans flocked to Stradbally for EP and the GAA minors helped pack stadia. But Electric Ireland's support of Pieta House's Darkness into Light plays a pivotal role too.
McCarthy says Electric Ireland is a low consumer interest business providing a functional, seemingly invisible service. "We're the ultimate generic," she insists. "No one ever gets excited about us - except in our absence." Strong sponsorships help build a distinctive brand personality and market opportunities.
It's easy to go for the obvious sponsorships, due to a meagre number of prestige properties. But McCarthy believes brands should target the best sponsorships available and build them into something special. The GAA space is cluttered with 21 major sponsors - 50 when all the county backers are included.
With a lot of similar messaging and use of action shots, getting cut-through can be tough. The focus is on players as young men - and not just sportsmen. Playing minors comes at a crucial 'coming of age' stage for 17 and 18-year-olds. They have their Leaving Cert, college choices, debs, driving lessons and girlfriends to think about.
Electric Ireland's insight that there's 'Nothing minor about being a minor' matured into #ThisIsMajor. Electric Ireland has been involved with EP for seven years. Targeting the 20 to 35- year-old cohort can prove tricky. Young people tend to be brand promiscuous, watch less TV, multi-screen, read little and overdo it digitally.
To stimulate pre-festival interest, ticket were given away. McCarthy says at a music festival it can be hard to create brand awareness for an energy provider given that the audience is smitten by Sam Smyth, Blur, EP's comedy tent and bars.
Electric Ireland's 90s Power Party saw festival goers trying to impress judge Mark McCabe with their 90s dance moves by uploading a video with them 'dance bombing' to social media. The #90sPowerParty tent featured 90s bands 2Unlimited and The Venga Boys. DJ Mark McCabe performed his Maniac hit for the first time in 15 years. About 6km of energy efficient lighting helped direct revellers back to their campsites and mobiles were recharged. As reported by AdLib in September, EP led to Electric Ireland taking the festival's top spot for brand impact, scoring 62pc in a PSG survey.
* Staying with sponsorships, Core Media's Livewire agency reports that Mitsubishi is now supporting George Hook's evening drivetime show on Newstalk and 'Ireland's Fittest Families' on RTE One Television.
Meanwhile, UTV Ireland has sold 'I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here' to Kia for an estimated €200k. In the main picture with model Nadia Forde are Kia's James Brooks and Daragh Byrne, UTV Ireland. Meanwhile, Dubai Duty Free is to sponsor the Irish Open golf until 2018, with the K Club staging next year's tournament. In 2019, the British Open returns to the North for the first time since 1951. Staged by the Rory Foundation, next year's prize fund is up by 60pc to €4m.
Turkish Airlines has signed a three-year deal to partner the European Rugby Champions Cup. While widely known for its football ads with the Manchester United squad and Barcelona's Lionel Messi, it's the airline's first foray into rugby and they join Heineken as a headline sponsor.
Laya Healthcare is now Leinster Rugby's health and wellness backer, following the brand's support for RTE's 'You Should Really See a Doctor'. Ireland's newest mobile operator, iD Mobile, is sponsoring Aussie teenage soap 'Home and Away'.
Spar continues its partnership with chef Donal Skehan, pictured, in sponsoring RTE's new 'Cook Eat Burn' series as part of a reported €150,000 campaign. The healthy eating show is co-hosted by nutritionist Dr Brendan Egan.
So what's left for would-be sponsors? The Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) needs to replace Jameson.
After qualifying for Rio, Ireland's men's hockey team is on the lookout for a backer.
And 'The Voice of Ireland' is up for grabs for around €375k, after two years with Müller yogurt. Livewire's Jamie Macken says with Christmas looming, other media packages may be around the corner.
Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie: email@example.com