Thursday 14 December 2017

The business of electing our leaders

Gary Disley of Eir Business, one of the Irish Open sponsors, as the K Club event tees off
Gary Disley of Eir Business, one of the Irish Open sponsors, as the K Club event tees off
Returned Taoiseach Enda Kenny
RTE presenter Kathryn Thomas

Michael Cullen

As the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) hosts a public affairs conference today on the theme 'All Changed, Changed Utterly?' and the era of new politics, a marketing advisor claims the seemingly endless problems in forming a new government resulted from a failure in branding due to mixed messages from politicians.

Gerard Tannam says the delay in agreeing a minority government and electing Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny as Taoiseach shows voter choices were poor and differences between candidates unclear. People were told they could have any shade of government they liked - so long as it's bland. From a marketing perspective, the outcome offers some insight into how the business of government - and the job of electing new administrations - can be improved.

Ireland's Constitution defines the nation's business. It echoes the resolve in the 1916 Proclamation "to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally". So how come the people we elect don't deliver on the aspiration we hold in forming a new government? Tannam asks.

Why did the scandal of homelessness barely feature in the run-up to polling?

Voters must remind those we elect of the business we're in as a country and the response we expect from them.

In marketing terms, it's a chance for a government brand to offer voters a choice. Where's the unique selling proposition - USP?

Considering the brands of government on offer through the political parties, groupings and independents, it's obvious voters get confused.

A smorgasbord of candidates' messages resulted in a cross-section of voter reactions and a hotchpotch government. But that's just taking a superficial view of brand as image, Tannam adds.

Voters must go deeper and consider the political brand as buyer and seller.

The purpose of a candidate or party is to urge more voters to choose them over a rival brand. Voters rely on political information to help make choices. Successful parties and candidates tell voters something about the relationship they will enjoy by 'buying' into their brand.

Voters are reluctant to support politicians who don't outline their policies.

Reluctance turns to cynicism as the topics dominating political debate have little to do with the business of government for which candidates were elected. So how does a politician sell a brand of government?

Politicians must be business-like and show how the strategy allows voters to deliver on the promise made in the Constitution and how they will be held accountable for the legislation they introduce when in power. Tannam says once we're clear about the brand of government we want, voter choices will improve and the differences between candidates will be clearer.

* As the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open tees off at the K Club today, one in two consumers will be reached by a golf sponsor in Ireland this year, a study by sponsorship agency Onside and Atomic Sport indicates. Worldwide spend on golf will top €1.5bn in 2016, including support for pro and amateur tournaments, charity fundraisers, endorsement deals and corporate hospitality.

The growth comes from various sectors, including financial services, as shown by the Irish Open's new tie-up with Bank of Ireland, and car brands, the main backer of golf globally.

Onside CEO John Trainor says the renewed interest in golf is driven by the success of players like Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne, the revamped Irish Open and a demand for brands to jump on board the golf bandwagon.

The research shows 62 different brands were linked to golf sponsorship last year, with 46pc making a link between sponsors and golf, including one in two men and four in 10 women.

Nike is the brand most associated with the game in Ireland, reflecting superstar Rory McIlroy's influence, while one in 10 named a sportswear brand.

One in five respondents cited an Irish Open sponsor - either past or present - with legacy brands Murphy's and Nissan still recalled.

As a spectator experience, a golf tournament can be a big day out which focuses the minds of sponsors on event experiences like floating cars at PGA tour events and parking for BMW owners at the Irish Open.

* Fáilte Ireland will be heartened to hear that one in three people would prefer to holiday in Ireland this summer, an online poll for Glanbia's Avonmore whipped cream found. The Ring of Kerry and Galway city are the top choices.

For overseas travellers, Lake Como in Italy and Honolulu in Hawaii are favoured destinations.

As to the big sports events people will watch on TV this summer, the Rio Olympics is number one, followed by the Euros and Wimbledon. RTE presenter Kathryn Thomas and Hollywood actor Michael Fassbender were voted Ireland's two favourite celebs to share strawberries and cream with this summer.

Michael Cullen is editor of

Indo Business

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