Turning Leinster Rugby into an elite organisation

6 02 2013

Mick Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby, addressed the January 2013 Marketing Breakfast. Mick took the audience through the journey that Leinster Rugby has taken from the amateur to the professional to the elite era. To give some perspective, when rugby union turned professional Leinster Rugby had no structures, no fan base, played three matches a season and was seen as a stepping stone to the national side. Today it has:

  1. 145 employees
  2. A turnover of €17 million
  3. 13,000 season ticket holders
  4. State of the Art facilities in UCD
  5. Plays 28 – 33 matches a season

We live in a moment where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when is it already disappearing” RD Laing

From a marketing perspective a key message that I picked up from Mick was the importance of managing people and relationships. Mick and his team have to manage relationships with professional sporting bodies, players, sponsors, supporters, volunteers and the amateur side of rugby in the province. I was very interested in the emphasis Mick put on this. For example, the supports club is a separate entity to Leinster Rugby but they meet regularly to keep in touch with what the supporters are saying.

Leinster Rugby has also invested in trying to understand their audience and their brand. They carried out a brand study to see how they were perceived by a cross-section of stakeholders including season ticket holders, clubs, schools, staff, players and sponsors. Based on the result of this study they made three key decisions:

  1. the brand was Leinster rather than Dublin and they need to expand outside the traditional south Dublin stronghold
  2. a new logo was need to drive the brand forward
  3. the profile of match attendees needed to change from men in their 50’s to families

This clear understanding of the brand has helped position Leinster Rugby as the “12 county army” and a remarkable sporting and commercial success story. Mick’s full talk is available on the Marketing Institute’s YouTube channel or you can view my interview with Mick below.

Taking the ‘yes’ from the ‘no’

6 12 2012

Thanks to the Ryan Academy I had the pleasure on Tuesday of listening to Rory O’Connor and Anita Murphy of Rory’s Story Cubes and The Creativity Lab tell their story. This is a marvellous story of innovation, creativity, perseverance and hard work. If you are looking for a creative yet simple Christmas present for someone you could do worse than buy one of these.

There were a few key messages that really struck me.

  1. If people don’t help you then have the courage to do it yourself. Not everybody will see what you see.
  2. Don’t hold their failure to see your vision against them. If they can help you in the future then accept their help.
  3. Be prepared to try the less obvious route to solving a problem.
  4. Try to clarify the real need. If someone says ‘no’ then try to understand why they said ‘no’ and then meet that need.

Marketing, innovation

Finally, what struck me most was Rory and Anita’s absolute passion for what it is they do. A truly great Irish success story.

The importance of your staff

25 10 2012

At recent Marketing Breakfast Nigel Blow, the CEO of Arnotts, gave some excellent insights into the ongoing work of rebuilding the classic Irish retail brand that is Arnotts. You can see the entire presentation on the Marketing Institute You Tube Channel but what struck me was the emphasis Nigel put on the workforce.

Nigel started by saying that he inherited a very demotivated workforce. This is hardly surprising given that they had been told they were being made redundant during the planned redevelopment and were very much aware of Arnotts’ financial problems. However, despite all this, the staff were very passionate about Arnotts and wanted to contribute to its turnaround. Because of their great loyalty and passion Nigel was very keen to involved them in the process.

Nigel and his team held coordinated sessions with all staff . These sessions usually had about 100 people at a time and included the full range of staff for longing serving to new, from Arnotts staff to concession staff. The key points to come out of these sessions were:

  • feedback was hugely positive even though you would have expected negativity
  • staff were very grateful for being included even if many of them had seen it all before
  • you must implement at least some of what comes out of the session in order for them to have any credibility
  • the level of honesty was impressive: “you have to get rid of the s**t people”
  • a lot of time was spent on vision and values and on the ‘bullseye customer’
  • all of the results were communicated clearly
  • annual goals for staff were based on the tone set by the values

Nigel finished his section on staff by reminding us that change is difficult. As much as people say they want it you must be aware that when it is happening it is very difficult.

If you want to learn more check out my interview with Nigel conducted after the breakfast event.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/ihmbLXVU9s8&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Content marketing is easy?

12 10 2012

I attended the Digital Thursday event organised by the Marketing Institute of Ireland last night. The speaker was Nick Biggam, Commercial Director of AIB Merchant Services. Nick and his team provide the technology behind electronic payments whether that is using your credit/debit card in-store, purchasing over the phone or buying online.

Nick outlined how they have grown their business through content marketing and SEO using a new website to position themselves as industry experts. I wrote a guest blog post on the event for the Marketing Institute which gives more detail but what struck me most was how much time Nick and his team invest in this content driven approach to marketing. What they do is:

  1. Write 3 to 6 independent, non-biased articles a week to showcase their expertise. This is done using a team of independent journalists as well as articles supplied by other industry players
  2. Serious SEO work involving 141 key words of which they rank first for 90
  3. Backlinks to the AIBMS website for additional information
  4. Sharing content via LinkedIn and Twitter
  5. Monthly email

That’s a lot of ongoing work!

Good and bad logos

5 07 2012

Here is a really nice post from Hubspot on good and bad examples of branding. I have always been a fan of the FedEx logo so it is nice to see it included.

The two key considerations in changing a corporate brand are the motivation for the change and how it is managed. A radical change can be very upsetting for customers, suppliers and partners unless it is very clearly explained. In reality, brand changes should usually be about evolution rather than revolution. This approach removes any anxiety that may occur as it can be presented as progress rather than change. The subtle modernisation of the Guinness harp is a great example of how to change a brand without upsetting customers.

Pinterest: should we care?

15 05 2012

It is the new big thing in social media. Everyone seems to think that brands should be on Pinterest but nobody seems to know what to do, how to do it or why to do it. There is also some speculation that Pinterest has peaked due to a slight decline in the number of users recorded recently.

Some numbers
Pinterest has circa 10 million registered users. Almost all of these are in the US. The most recent figures I could find indicated only about 200,000 users in the UK, for example. I could find no figures for Ireland but it is reasonable to suggest that it is probably only a few thousand at best.

About 9 million of these users signed up through Facebook accounts. This is interesting because it shows that Pinterest is not really bringing new people to social media but simply drawing from the same pool as Facebook and others. Is there an element of boredom with Facebook?

Women are in the majority on Pinterest. The numbers vary but it seems that active users are 80% women and 97% of Facebook likes for Pinterest are from women.

Pinterest and Ireland
Apart from lots of beautiful pictures of Ireland only two Irish brands have set up their own boards. These are Easons and NUI Maynooth. It will be interesting to see what response they get. Two Irish media outlets have added “Pin it” buttons to their sites. These are Silicon Republic and Storyful.

I would suggest that if your site is very visual with lots of good pictures then it might be worth adding the “Pin It” button and see what happens. If you see some results then consider setting up your own board, assuming of course you have the resources to manage yet another social media account.

New strategies for recovery

19 04 2012

The current series of the Marketing Breakfast came to an end this week. In looking back at the speakers we had this year there was one speaker that really stood out. David McRedmond, CEO of TV3, challenged the audience to think again and set out four key areas where we can help Ireland recover.

1. Worry about who you are not involving.
If your CEO or CFO does not understand what marketing is doing then it should come as no shock when the budget for marketing is cut. Bring your CEO or CFO to agency pitches so they can see what is happening and why.

2. Brands need reach to grow.
Brands grow through having a lot of light users rather than a small number of heavy users. Scale is important. Mass media is still important and possibly even more important than ever. Social media is excellent for research, feedback and getting a deeper relationship with your customers. It is not as effective for driving high levels of growth.

3. Buy Irish and sell Ireland.
It is important that we support local business to keep the distinctiveness of Irish marketing. It is equally important tell the world that we are open for business and worth investing in.

4. Take a deep view of your market.
Look beyond the obvious measures such as brand value. Look at the really deep issues in the market and identify the key blockages that are preventing growth. These are likely to be regulatory or government issues and you may need a specific strategy to remove the blockage.

The entire presentation was recorded live and is well worth viewing. If you are short on time you can watch my interview with him instead.

It’s further than you think

29 02 2012

The Marketing Institute of Ireland and An Post combined this week to provide us with some useful information on the differences between consumers in Ireland and consumers in the UK. Prepared and presented by Gerard O’Neill of Amarach Consulting it was very clear that there are significant differences between the two groups and marketing professionals would do well to note these when planning campaigns.

Aside from the key points highlighted by Gerard here is what I noted personally:

  1. 72% of Irish consumers are spending less this year compared to last year – no great surprise there but striking none the less, especially if you are in the retail trade;
  2. Facebook is trusted to be “honest and fair” by only 23% of those surveyed with social networking in general faring even worse at 18%. Google scored quite well coming in at 48% (only the Gardai and An Post scored higher). Banks, unsurprisingly, came in at just 6% with the Government coming in at 4%;
  3. Trust in advertising channels very much favours traditional mass media channels (TV, radio, newspapers) with new media channels showing very high levels of distrust. Adverts in games/apps are trusted by only 15% of Irish respondents, for example;
  4. Mobile phone and internet access is extremely high in Ireland. Internet access at home is at 97% while mobile internet access is at 54% and rising quickly.


New media, with the possible exception of Google, still has to earn the trust of consumers. However, people are very comfortable online and brands that get the communication process right have the potential to be very successful. In reality, a mix of traditional and new media is still required to deliver results.

Demography is destiny

26 09 2011

At the September 2011 Marketing Breakfast Gerard O’Neill of Amarach Consulting gave 120 guests an insight into Ireland’s current baby boom. Research conducted for Eumom produced some interesting results. From a marketing perspective some of the following jumped out at me:

  • 77% of households have less income in now than they did last year
  • Irish mothers have significant influence on household spending decisions
  • 97% of respondents are in a loyalty scheme
  • Coupons or vouchers are extremely popular with Irish mothers
  • Online marketing: Irish mothers trust the information received from online communities
  • Irish mothers have a strong sense of brand loyalty

Download the presentation if you want all the details http://sn.im/miisept

Note: thanks to Gerard O’Neill for the great title.