2015 Winner

Irish Independent Provincial Rugby Sponsorship

Irish International

Sandymount, Ireland

Category Print Single-Copy Sales

Media associated with this campaign

Overview of this campaign

Business Challenge

The Irish Independent is Ireland’s best-selling daily newspaper. Every day hundreds of thousands of readers pick up a copy of the paper to inform, educate and entertain themselves about news, sport, business, culture and so much more.
Despite competing in a very challenging market, the Irish Independent has delivered a strong performance in recent years, holding share against a backdrop of intense competition.

In 2013 the Irish Independent, identified two separate but related challenges:

  • The image of the paper, from a sports perspective, was very GAA-centric. The Irish Independent had not built strong credentials in rugby, despite having access to high quality journalistic talent (Tony Ward, Neil Francis, George Hook etc.)
  • The Irish Independent holds the No. 1 position in every county bar South Dublin and Cork and so wanted to grow market share in these two rugby strongholds against stiff competition from the Irish Times in South Dublin and the Examiner in Cork.

Rugby has been growing significantly in popularity in Ireland in recent years, buoyed up by the success of national team and the provinces. It was clear that improving the paper’s credentials in rugby would have a positive impact on the paper generally, and could help to address the specific challenges in South Dublin and Cork.

Results for this campaign

Marketing Response

The decision was taken to make a high impact move into rugby by becoming the official newspaper to the Leinster, Munster and Connaught teams. In implementing these sponsorships the Irish Independent established itself as a valued partner to the provinces and to rugby in Ireland.

The Irish Independent built a strong branding presence in the stadia and match programmes, allowing them to declare a shared passion directly with the most ardent fans.

The activation of the sponsorship went way beyond mere branding. In an example of true innovation, the Irish Independent introduced bespoke supplements for each of the provinces, which were geographically targeted in the editions of the paper bound for each province. This was a logistically complex operation, but was justified on the basis of the value it created for the provinces and their fans.

These supplements gave a platform for the provinces to connect with a broad base of fans and to deepen the relationship with exclusive content e.g. Coaches’ notes, players’ diaries.

In addition the Irish Independent collaborated with clubs to offer a number of ‘money can’t buy’ experiences for fans including the opportunity to present the ‘Man Of The Match’ award, or have their kids chosen as team mascots.
Finally, the Irish Independent leveraged the sponsorship to increase circulation by creating a bundle offering of the newspaper, a match programme and a bottle of River Rock for €5.00, which was available at all of the provinces home games. This activity delivered incremental sales while further cementing the relationship between the brand and rugby.


The sponsorship generated very strong results for the Irish Independent, both in terms of readership and improved advertising revenue performance.

The introduction of the regional rugby supplements increased circulation on Fridays by an average of 3.5% over the first year of the sponsorship.

Advertising revenue in the Friday edition increased by 5% over the first year of the sponsorship.

This increase in advertising revenue was fuelled by a number of factors:

  • The creation of a bespoke environment for advertisers targeting rugby fans.
  • Increased opportunities to deliver cost-effective solutions for regional advertisers using the regionally targeted supplements
  • Improvement in the profile of the audience for the property section (which also appears on Fridays)

The sponsorship also created opportunities to deepen relationships with key clients. The Irish Independent partnered with Bank of Ireland on their “Sponsor For A Day” promotion, improving the effectiveness of the bank’s work and generating an opportunity to capture data from over 2,000 SME’s.

The sponsorships have also created opportunities for a stream of revenue generating promotions with other sponsors e.g. Wolf Blass, Nivea and River Rock.

Finally, the sponsorships served as a platform for deeper involvement with rugby. The Irish Independent has recently signed up as the official paper of the Junior and Senior Cup competitions. And, in a bold move the Irish Independent has recently signed up as the Title sponsor of Musgrave Park, or as it is now known, Irish Independent Park.

This entry demonstrates how a sponsorship can be used to address a specific business issue, but also how the inventive implementation of a sponsorship can be used to unlock direct commercial benefits for brand in the short and long term.


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