Sunday 22 April 2018

Marketing people: Rory Sheridan

Head of Sponsorship, Diageo Europe

Rory Sheridan Photo by David Conachy
Rory Sheridan Photo by David Conachy Business

With the Guinness PRO12 rugby tournament over and the Irish rugby team on its summer tour to the US and Japan, Rory Sheridan, head of sponsorship for Diageo talks to John McGee about Guinness’s sponsorship activity.

How important is sponsorship within Guinness’s marketing mix?

It’s fair to say that the Guinness brand embraced sponsorship as a marketing solution back when sponsorship as a concept was still in early development. For us, sponsorship is about investing in and supporting the passions of our adult consumers and we have been consistently strong in activating partnerships in the world of sport, entertainment, culture and other activities that really matter to Guinness drinkers.

From a strategic perspective, we’ve always looked well beyond branding and aimed to bring exciting campaigns to life around our sponsorships that engage our target adult consumer.

What are the challenges drink brands face with sponsorship?

Firstly, sponsorship is a growth industry and has been for a few decades — so despite our heritage in sponsorship it is an increasingly crowded market place. The challenge is to rise above the clutter and create stand-out campaigns that connect with our audience.

Another is the consistent and effective promotion of responsible drinking around our sponsorships. Our own self-regulation coupled with the regulations in the markets in which we operate aim to safeguard against any work that would be considered irresponsible. But it’s something we must constantly monitor to ensure we’re not designing campaigns that pose any risks in this regard.

A final potential challenge in the future relates to parts of the proposed new alcohol legislation. As currently worded, they would lead to an effective advertising ban for sports and cultural sponsorships.

In the last two decades we’ve seen a big decline in alcohol consumption — 25pc in the last 15 years — and likewise in under-age consumption, so there’s no evidence in Ireland that drinks sponsorship or advertising is having a negative impact on misuse.

Why has Guinness focused on rugby?

First and foremost, brand sponsorship is about supporting the passions of your target audience. Rugby has always been one of the most popular sports among Guinness consumers. It’s for that reason that we began investing in rugby sponsorship three decades ago and have continued to support the game to the extent that, in some of our markets, the brand is synonymous with it.

How do you measure the success of your sports sponsorships?

Our metrics cover a range of perspectives of success, but in general, our portfolio of assets are delivering significant media and brand equity-building outcomes. In Ireland, for example, research by sponsorship consultants Onside revealed Guinness as the most admired sponsor in that market in 2016, a measure we are particularly encouraged by.

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