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Advertising Case Study

AIB: GAA Club Championships Sponsorship


By Projects Analyst, Projects Analyst

June 20, 2017 | 5 min read

Rothco worked with AIB to raise the profile of the GAA Club Championships (Gaelic Athletic Association). A competition that they have sponsored for over 20 years. Rothco explain the brief, strategy, and execution, that lead to a successful campaign.



For over 20 years AIB had sponsored the GAA Club Championships , an organisation at the core of Irish culture and identity, with little reward. Minimal awareness, negligible brand association. Time for a change of tack.

Enter Rothco. Our brief was to elevate the status of the Club Championships, the grass roots competition that is completely overshadowed by inter-county sport.

Thousands of clubs compete for The Club Championships but only one gets the glory. Rivalries are intense and teams might have to win up to 12 knockout games to reach the final. One loss and you’re out. That’s tough.

The games are physically brutal and it’s emotionally draining because players have to train as hard as professional athletes while holding down full-time jobs. They rarely see their families.

We had our big idea: Grass roots sport is the toughest. Let’s celebrate it.

Tough love

For most of the year the Club Championships go under the radar. Even the best games are no more than a footnote in the sports pages. That seemed unfair.

We wanted to help clubs celebrate their achievements, show them some love. So we hired photographers to attend games and upload their photos, which Rothco creatives turned into posters featuring the final score. Instant digital glory.

The digital posters were shared via social networks on every final whistle, while printed versions were sold to raise funds for cash-strapped clubs. Even the smallest teams had their big moments celebrated forever in print.

Tough choice

Then we decided to hijack the All-Ireland Inter-County Final at Croke Park. A bit naughty perhaps, because AIB weren’t sponsoring it, but think of the cause. And think of the media coverage. It’s one of the most watched sporting events on the Irish sporting calendar.

Tickets for the All-Ireland finals are like gold dust. Three million people vie for 80,000 seats. The perfect opportunity to test the legendary loyalty of GAA fans who say they would do anything for their clubs.

We put the theory to the test and asked fans to make the toughest choice of all:

Would you rip up your match ticket in return for much-needed funds for your club? Well would you?

Torture. But great to watch, and the people came through.


Tough trade

GAA fans are tough, but how could we prove the athletes were the toughest?

One way would be to find out how pampered sports stars would cope with the pressure of the amateur game. Would they be able to combine intense training with family commitments and a full-time job?

To find out we devised a TV format in which pros from the two richest leagues in the world – the English Premier League and Major League Baseball – traded places with amateurs from Gaelic football and hurling.

Our hour-long documentary was pre-promoted with teaser content receiving 1.3 million views and 5 million page impressions in a country of 4.5 million people. On the night it was televised ‘The Toughest Trade’ sent Twitter into meltdown, filling three of the top ten trending positions.

AIB and Rothco now own a format with global reach.

Tough road

Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper is the biggest star of GAA, an All-Ireland hero and passionate to the core about club sport. We enlisted Colm’s help early on – after staging a cheeky little interrogation from a Dublin taxi driver, just to check his heart was in the right place.

Our film of the prank received hundreds of thousands of views and Colm had become the face of our ‘Toughest’ campaign, only for him to suffer a career threatening knee injury.

Serious injuries are common in the GAA. But we knew every sports fan would be able to relate to Colm’s situation so we made his recovery part of our ‘Toughest’ story. ‘The Toughest Road Back’ is a gritty, truthful and uplifting documentary of his lengthy rehabilitation. The sweat, the tears, the highs and lows.


Without knowing it we had become great storytellers.


ICAD 3 x Bronze, 1 x Silver / DMA 1 x Bronze, 1 x Silver / 1 x Social Media Awards

This case study was originally uploaded by Rothco to the profile hub on 06/06/17.

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AIB is a commercial bank in Ireland offering a full range of personal and corporate banking services.

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