Could TikTok boost visibility of women’s GAA? (2024)

When coming up with the name for its new GAA promotion, it must have been tempting for Lidl to trick around with some variation of probably the most incendiary words in the game: “pay for play”.

This after all is the company that launched its sponsorship of Women’s Gaelic Football in 2016 with the “Ladyball” campaign which reached Liveline levels of outrage before it was revealed to be a spoof. Instead it went for the safer “Shoot to Save” for what is an innovative idea to increase the number of Women’s Gaelic Football videos on TikTok while boosting attendance in the knock-out stages of the TG4 All Ireland Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association Championships.

The social campaign is, according to the supermarket giant, the first of its kind. Match-goers can earn shopping discounts if they post TikToks of the game. How much depends on the “likes” their videos receive – from €5 if a TikTok earns more than 25 likes up to a €20 discount for content with anything over 100 likes.

With modest enough rewards at play – being frugal is very much on-brand for the German retailer – it’s not going to mean hordes of TikTokers going wild in the middle aisle but could add to the visibility of the women’s game.

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Posts with the #LidlShootToSave tag have 24 hours to amass likes and once the retailer’s social media team has verified the footage as having been taken at the match, the poster will receive their discount through the Lidl Plus app.

And this is where the idea creaks a little: while anyone over 13 can use TikTok, only those over 18 can use the supermarket’s app and so “Shoot to Save” is adults-only, not ideal when Lidl’s sponsorship puts so much effort into reaching and encouraging young girls.

Some 59 per cent of Irish people have never attended a live women’s sporting event and that’s despite three-quarters of respondents thinking it is a shame people don’t attend

The matches included in the campaign begin on July 6th with the Senior All-Ireland quarter finals and include the championship games at intermediate and junior level up the finals in Croke Park on August 4th.

The initiative is an indication just how hard brands have to work when they get involved in sponsoring women’s sports.

It’s not about “smacking your logo on it and hope to get visibility”, says Eimear O’Sullivan, the supermarket’s Irish corporate affairs director, adding that it’s about getting involved at every level of the game, countrywide.

While the Lidl digital team will be scrutinising each TikTok before issuing the discount – O’Sullivan says they will easily be able to spot if someone tries to pretend they were in the stadium by reposting another person’s video – the social media giant also has rules when it comes to likes. For example, users are limited to allocating 500 likes per day – a massive figure which gives an indication just how much time some users spend on the platform. Posters can like their own content (typically seen as deeply uncool – though when there’s a discount on offer a pragmatic move) and likes are automatically set as “visible only to you” unless you have changed your privacy settings. TikTok claims nearly three million users in Ireland and skews female and under 35 – a prime audience for any supermarket chain.

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“We frame our [marketing] strategy around research,” says O’Sullivan and that data around support for women’s sport is fairly grim.

A key finding is that 59 per cent of Irish people have never attended a live women’s sporting event and that’s despite three-quarters of respondents (74 per cent) thinking it is a shame that people don’t attend. The barriers to going to a women’s game of any sort were found to include not knowing the names of anyone playing and not seeing anything about it in the media. Almost two-thirds said women’s sport does not get enough media coverage in Ireland and 83 per cent agreed that men’s sport is covered more comprehensively.

Nearly 40 per cent of respondents said they get their sporting information on social media which are typically flooded with highlights videos on male sporting occasions. This TikTok promotion, says O’Sullivan, is an attempt to raise visibility by getting more Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association content in feeds.

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“We do everything we can as a sponsor to get bums on seats,” says O’Sullivan and increasing attendance to watch women and girls play has been a key goal since the brand began sponsoring the LGFA eight years ago. Back then there was target of 40,000 for that year’s All-Ireland final, with an aim of eventually filling Croke Park. Numbers had started to build with the footballers earning a record for attendance at a female sporting event in Ireland with the 56,114 supporters for their 2019 final. The pandemic broke the momentum with last year’s final attracting an attendance of 45,326. O’Sullivan is optimistic that this year’s final will build on that.

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In January, to launch its latest campaign as part of its €10 million commitment to Women’s Gaelic Football, Lidl brought Lindsay Peterson from the University of Nebraska and Holly Murdock from the English Football Association to Dublin to explain how they attract spectators to women’s sport. Peterson’s team set the world record for attendance at a female sports event with 92,003 attending a college volleyball match in August 2023 while the English FA has delivered record crowds at female events such as the 87,192 who attended the Euro22 final between England and Germany.

“One thing we learned,” says O’Sullivan, “is that people want to be entertained so for example there are plans for the Croke Park finals for extras such as live music, a fanzone and a children’s area.”

It’s quite a bit more work than slapping a logo on a shirt.

As the campaign is the first of its kind, the brand is, says O’Sullivan, “dipping its toe in the water”. One thing is certain; there’s a ceiling of €50,000 on the discounts it will give away and “once that’s gone it’s gone”.

Could TikTok boost visibility of women’s GAA? (2024)
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