'The response has been phenomenal': The story behind Lidl's ‘level the playing field’ ad

Lidl's Aoife Clarke tells Colm O’Connor that the concept has resonated far beyond Ireland
'The response has been phenomenal': The story behind Lidl's ‘level the playing field’ ad

LGFA sponsors, Lidl, have won glowing plaudits for their new ‘Level the playing field’ campaign which launched earlier this month.

The retail chain’s head of Communications and Marketing, Aoife Clarke, tells Colm O’Connor that the concept has resonated far beyond Ireland.

Q. Tell me about the process from the original idea for this ad to hitting our TV screens?

A: “We in Lidl started working with the LGFA in 2016. At the outset we had a hard hitting advertising campaign based around the concept of ‘serious support’ where we showed that women in sport were putting in as much time, effort and preparation as men.

"That campaign performed very well for us but then we decided, as part of the 20x20 campaign, to evolve and create a new message. We undertook major research on how women’s sport is viewed in Ireland and though we found a massive improvement in terms of interest, attendances and so forth, there are still inequalities which we felt needed to be addressed.

"All of that information was then a starting point for our agency, BBDO Dublin, to develop into something. We loved this ‘level the playing field’ concept which they came back with and felt that this was a phrase which would resonate with people.

"And that has certainly been the case since the ad aired earlier this month.

Q. Where was it filmed and how much of a challenge was it technically?

A: The ad was filmed by Red Rage Productions in March 2020, just before the first lockdown. The original plan was to air it in April but we made a decision to pull it as it just didn’t feel right to broadcast something like this with everything that was happening in the country. It was filmed over two days in a farmer’s field, which we marked out as a pitch, in Glendalough, Wicklow. Those were two long tough days of filming!

"At its peak we had between 150 to 200 people involved and on set - so much so that we used a local youth hostel as a base and then bused people in and out.

"It was quite a tough shoot for the players and for the film crew given the demanding terrain. There were no special effects of CGI elements added afterwards, those girls were really running up and down that very steep hill!

Q. Who are the girls that feature in it?

A: There were no actors in the ad. The primary group of players used - Aishling Moloney (Tipp), Carla Rowe (Dublin), Emer Gallagher (Donegal), Monica McGuirk (Meath), Caoimhe McGrath (Waterford), Nicola Ward (Galway) - are part of Lidl’s ambassador programme.

"Many of them are involved in the Jigsaw/LGFA ‘One Good Club’ initiative which is funded by Lidl. This is a five-step youth mental health awareness programme for local clubs, developed in partnership with the LGFA and Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health.

"The One Good Club programme forms part of over €4m invested by Lidl since the partnership with the LGFA began in 2016 and for the first time brings together Lidl’s two community partners – the LGFA and Jigsaw. The ad also features players from the Sylvester’s and Robert Emmets clubs.

Q. What is the objective from Lidl's perspective from the ad?

A: "There is no scientific way to say if an ad like this works in terms of getting more people to shop in our stories. Anecdotally it has helped our reputation and has helped build our local credentials. A project like this is a huge undertaking and also a huge investment from the company.

"Our role in his sponsorship is to help raise the awareness of Ladies Football and the players. The response has been phenomenal, very positive. I still get goosebumps every time that I see the ad. I choke up as it is quite emotional and impactful. And we are seeing the same kinds of feelings and responses and feelings from people online and across social media.

"It has touched a chord with not just Irish people but around Europe and beyond. Just this week Andy Murray’s mom, Judy, tweeted how much she loved the ad. So yes, we are very very proud of what we have achieved.”

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