The Toughest


Taking GAA Sponsorship to the next level.

Client: AIB

The Challenge

For over 20 years AIB had sponsored the GAA Club Championships (Gaelic Athletic Association), an organisation at the core of Irish culture and identity, with little reward.

The competition got no national media coverage, awareness was minimal and brand association negligible. Enter Rothco. Our brief was to elevate the status of the Club Championships, the grassroots competition that is completely overshadowed by inter-county sport.

The Idea

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.

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

The Outcome

To revitalise the competition we launched #TheToughest, a multi-discipline idea set out to make heroes of ordinary Club players and matches. We started with visibility. In a tournament overlooked by national media we sent a team of photographers and creatives to create real-time digital posters featuring final scores of Club matches. Instant digital glory.

These were shared via social networks on every final whistle, while printed versions were sold to raise funds for cash-strapped clubs.

The Toughest Choice

We then decided to hijack the All-Ireland Inter-County Final at Croke Park. A bit naughty perhaps, because AIB weren’t sponsoring it, but with three million people vying for 80,000 seats it’s the biggest event on the Irish sporting calendar. With tickets like gold dust we presented fans with the the toughest choice of all: Would you rip up your match ticket in return for much-needed funds for your club? The ultimate test of loyalty; but the people came through and love for Club won out.

The Toughest Trade

Having proven GAA fans are tough, how could we now prove our athletes were the toughest? We decided to invite players from the richest sports in the world – the English Premier League, Major League Baseball, the NFL, Big Bash Cricket, Rugby Union and the NHL to trade places with our GAA athletes to find out how these pampered sports stars would cope with the pressure of the amateur game. The fascinating result perfectly highlighted just how tough our amateur stars and our sport and was presented as a three-series documentary that aired on national TV.

AIB and Rothco now own a format with global reach.

From its simple, social post beginnings to a multi-channel sponsorship platform that fans now look out for every year, The Toughest has elevated AIB to the #1 sponsor in GAA by proving every bit as robust as the players, fans, and culture it celebrates.

The Impact

19.5m Video views post-campaign

51% Improved trust in AIB

#1 Sponsor in GAA

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