Conor McGregor has broken into Ireland’s Top 5 most admired sports personalities list for the first time in 2016, while Brian O’Driscoll and Katie Taylor hang on to top spot according to the latest ONSIDE StarTracker 2016 which is published by the sponsorship agency ONSIDE.
Sharing an equal lead, 1 in 5 Irish adults singled out ex-rugby player O’Driscoll or boxer Katie Taylor as the sports personality they admire most overall, albeit down 7% and 1% respectively year on year. Meanwhile Paul O’Connell, who released his autobiography last month, retained his Top 3 admiration rank in his first year of retirement.
Digging behind individual performances, Katie Taylor and Paul O’Connell have overtaken O’Driscoll as most admired sports stars to Irish females, while Taylor has also edged ahead of O’Driscoll to take top spot this year in the Dublin region. Overall, 2 in 10 surveyed singled out a rugby star, with the collective of soccer stars next in line at 15% (+3% year on year).
According to John Trainor, CEO of ONSIDE: “Reflecting the power of Ireland’s collective sporting heroes, a huge 82% of the Irish public could name a sports person they admired most this year. However, there is a steady shift evident over time in names at the front of the Irish public’s hearts and minds.”
One of the sports personalities showing noticeable positive momentum in terms of public support in the latest edition of the ONSIDE tracker was Tipperary native and Irish international soccer star Shane Long – climbing into the Top 10 for the first time at 9th place, one place behind Rory McIlroy (the later down from 5th to 8th place in 2016). According to Trainor: “particularly striking was the major growth in admiration for Shane Long among the much sought after Irish youths (18-24 year olds) audience”.
The Rio Olympics year has also been a progressive one for Sonia O’Sullivan, with a resurgence in her admiration ranking rise from 10th to 7th place, more than two decades after winning World Championship gold, a growth converted by ONSIDE in real terms into an incremental 53,000 extra Irish public ‘avid fans’ of O’Sullivan this year.
“Stars like Conor McGregor and Katie Taylor, who were central to significant ambassadorial programmes with global brands like Budweiser and Samsung in 2016, help amplify their personal and their sponsor’s brands outside their fields of play”. However. Trainor cautions against brands that see personality endorsement as an easy win to build brand appeal and conversion to business growth without the right data.
“Finding the right fit for talent—whether it be for a new ad creative or as a guest speaker—is a challenge for talent decision makers these days. However, pinpointing the best personality to attract the right audience can drive big results and help ad and content messages really stand out from the crowd,” he says.