‘Nothing beats being there’.
The new slogan the GAA are hoping will get supporters off their couches and armchairs and out to championship venues across the country during an action-packed summer.
There are conflicts of interest for GAA supporters everywhere you look over the next few months.
The fact that people have less money is just one factor, but Ireland’s presence at the Euro 2012 finals and the Olympics taking place on our doorsteps has sharpened the focus and prompted the GAA to embark on an aggressive marketing campaign.
At management level, the GAA have thought long and hard about how to meet these challenges head-on. They intend playing to their core strength — which is that there are top-class hurling and football matches taking place live at a venue near you.
“We’re telling the Irish public that we have the two best field games in the world — so don’t miss them,” says Ulster Council President Aogan Farrell.
“TV is the competitor for us this summer, but you can’t watch these games (Euros and Olympics) on the island of Ireland. There is sport taking place here and our new slogan has come about from within our own membership.
“When your own club or county is playing, how often do you hear someone saying ‘it was great to be there’ or ‘I wouldn’t have missed that’. Nothing beats being there.”
One new departure is that the national championship launch has been postponed until the All-Ireland qualifiers start at the end of June.
Instead, the provincial championships are having their own launches first, and Ulster started it off in style in the spectacular setting of the Titanic building last Tuesday night. Munster, Leinster and Connacht all hold their own over the next week.
The GAA’s Director of Communications Lisa Clancy explained there are more initiatives planned.
“All counties have been asked to open up their grounds on May 10 or May 11 and let people come to meet their local heroes to help build up excitement ahead of the championship,’’ she said.
PRO’s attended a work-shop in Croke Park last weekend to discuss how best to promote the championship in their own areas.
A new advertising campaign will soon hit our screens, and a new magazine-type show ‘Round the Square’ will be shown online on gaa.ie every Thursday afternoon during the championship.
Of course, if the games don’t excite the punter, they won’t come to watch.
On June 10, Tipp or Kerry will play Cork in the Munster football championship, Meath or Wicklow play Carlow and Tyrone play Armagh. Later that evening, Ireland play Croatia in the European championships.
At a time when even the new GAA President Liam O’Neill questioned the quality of fare on offer, Ard Stiúrthóir Paraic Duffy had a strong message to all county managers when speaking at the Ulster championship launch.
“The staging of the Olympics and the European championships gives us a challenge we need to face and will face head-on,’’ he warned.
“There is a responsibility on each and every county to market and promote the championship like never before and I am absolutely confident that people will turn out to our games in big numbers.
“My message to the managers is this — it’s important the games are played in a way which will excite and enthuse our supporters.’ The GAA reduced ticket prices last year and only saw a moderate-low drop in attendances, from 1.45m in 2010 to 1.325m.
The Ulster Council have followed suit and reduced admission prices this year across the board, with U16s free.
“For too long we have kept our games to ourselves,” said Ulster Council President Aogan Farrell.
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