The Heineken Kinsale Rugby 7s has everything a great sponsorship needs to last the test of time.
Synergy between the brands, club and community involvement; a mutual understanding by both the brand and club of what both parties need and want; a fan base that grows annually and a great dynamic between the people who sponsor and run it.
Twenty seven years ago over a cup of tea and a chat Murphys Brewery decided to give some kegs of Amstel to the organisers of the inaugural Kinsale 7s. It was such a success that the following year the growing Heineken brand took it over and a marriage was made in heaven. Over 160 volunteers are involved and this year 82 teams from as far away as Sweden make the 7s such a unique event.
From 10 miles around Kinsale you are greeted by event branding. Every pub within that radius serves Heineken and Murphys. I challenge you to find a pint of Carlsberg or Guinness inside the Heineken ring of steel. Over 10,000 people, at least 90% of which are 18 to 38 ABC1s, descend on the club a mile outside Kinsale Village irrespective of whether the sun shines or it lashes rain. These are the devotees of the 7s and the craic. The club has five pitches, all in great condition. They are in demand from 10 in the morning until 7pm and then the craic continues in Kinsale itself where bars, restaurants and hotels all benefit from the event.
Uniquely the club has developed a security system that insulates the event from trouble. Everyone produces ID and their photo is taken and married to their numbered wristband. If you misbehave you are readily identified and immediately ejected. Also, if you are under 18 you get a different coloured wristband and you don’t get alcohol.
Irish rugby legends both past and present have supported the 7s over the years. I met Peter O’Mahony and Connor Murray on the Saturday; Dougie Howlett and the family arrived in the afternoon. Fergus Slattery was visiting on Sunday to support The Wooden spoon charity. With the above mentioned and other former and present international’s, it is a social media god send for Heineken and the stats are through the roof. An hilarious Stephen Ferris video on Facebook has had over 32,000 views www.facebook.com/heinekenkinsalesevens/videos/10152707397492385/
However the real question is why does this sponsorship work so well and for so long when so many others fail?
Over the years the success of the 7s has enabled a small club on the outskirts of a village develop its facilities without the massive borrowings that has burdened or broken so many other sports clubs. It is the envy of many elite clubs with five superb pitches, a state of the art gym and changing facilities; a clubhouse with character and over 650 junior and adult members. The 7s has also brought much valued income to the wider community as you cannot get a room, a table or a barstool in Kinsale at 7s weekend. Jackie Dawson PR, who looks after the media for the event, recognises the value of Heineken and the other sponsors such a Kukri, Hays cabins, Natures Way and others. “ An event like this would struggle without great sponsors and the relationship the club has developed with Heineken is amazingly positive and beneficial to both,” says Jackie.
Heineken on the other hand own a sponsorship that ticks all their boxes. Corporate social responsibility is satisfied as evidenced by the growth of the club and the support of the community. They develop outstanding Social Media opportunities just by being there. They are satisfying the need for sociability of their core target market. Through their commitment to the 7s they engender loyalty and exclusive pouring rites from the trade in the area for the weekend.
The Heineken Kinsale 7s has worked for so long because it benefits all stakeholders. I left wondering was it Heinekens great experience at the 7s that gave them the idea for the European Heineken Cup.