The Irish Football Association and Electric Ireland have come together to see off the likes of Manchester City, Bayern Munich and the Champions League to seal a top award.
The energy provider’s support for women’s and girls’ football in Northern Ireland through the Game Changers campaign secured the top accolade at this year’s European Sponsorship Association Awards.
The ESA Sponsorship of the Year title was awarded for a campaign which the judges said had “moved the needle for the sport”. The accolade was presented at a gala ceremony in London’s Café de Paris.
The ESA Awards celebrate the best campaigns from Europe across a multitude of disciplines, including branded content, talent, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and community, media and employee engagement, sport and entertainment.
The Game Changers campaign beat off competition from the likes of SAP/Manchester City, Courtyard/Bayern Munich, energie direct/PSV Eindhoven, Opel/Feyenoord, Indeed/Eintracht Frankfurt, Vodafone/IRFU and Mastercard/UEFA Champions League to win the overall prize.
The judges said Game Changers had increased awareness and participation levels within the female game in Northern Ireland and had helped to grow brand awareness for Electric Ireland right across the community as well as strengthening affinity, advocacy and sales.
They added: “The activation was strong, with an integrated campaign across all channels that helped to build the Game Changers brand, creating talkability and ownership. Most importantly the campaign delivered incredibly strong results.”
Since the partnership began in early 2017 Northern Ireland has seen a 25% increase in participation levels within women’s football, with more than 10,000 girls and women playing the game every week.
Clare McAllister, Northern Ireland Residential Manager, Electric Ireland, said: "To win the best overall European sponsorship award for Game Changers is testament to our partnership with the Irish FA.
“Our sponsorship investments are based on a deep understanding of the concerns and passions of our customers and it is great to get this recognition on the European stage for programmes that resonate with consumers.”
Gail Redmond, the Irish FA Foundation’s Women’s Football Development Manager, said: “This sponsorship has been a real winner for both ourselves and Electric Ireland. Our aim is to boost and promote women’s and girls’ football across Northern Ireland and Electric Ireland’s support has been extremely beneficial in helping us to do that.
“It’s fantastic that sponsorship industry experts have recognised our strong partnership in this way.”
The ESA judges noted the objectives of the sponsorship had focused on outcomes for the Irish FA and women’s football and had tackled Electric Ireland brand awareness, affinity and sales with real definition.
Apart from the main award the energy provider and the Irish FA won the award for best community sponsorship and the accolade for the best sport sponsorship (less than one million euros). There were 24 categories in total. Electric Ireland also won two awards for their Darkness Into Light campaign in partnership with Pieta House.