Is Now the Perfect Time to Push the Globalisation of Irish Sports?

Galway v Kerry pictured in a February 2019 round 4 league meeting between the sides. Photo credit: Shane Tighe

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Irish sports may be hugely popular within the country, but they have failed to have much of an impact on the world stage. Ask anyone outside of Ireland about hurling or Gaelic football, and they’re likely to throw back a baffled look of sheer confusion. It’s like trying to explain the offside rule in soccer to an American football fan. Times could be about to change, though, as online merchandising gives teams and leagues a chance to gain more recognition internationally.

GAA Has Been Making Efforts to go Global

The GAA has been trying to globalise its games for many years, in a push to promote Irish values all over the world. Interestingly, there are more Irish people living outside of the Emerald Isle than within it, but a vast number of these have lost their connection to the culture through being so far separated from it. With a solid globalisation plan, though, the GAA could tap into dormant Irish sports fans and generate interest in the games in countries around the world.

As it stands, the main global events in Irish sport are when Ireland play Australia in a game of international rules, which combines Gaelic football and Aussie Rules. However, this series is no longer as important as it used to be. The key to success, though, would be to set up professional hurling and Gaelic football leagues in other countries and then organise an international competition.

More Emphasis on Merchandising

The main problem for Irish sports is that the major corporations steer clear of them in favour of striking sponsorship deals in more prominent competitions. Perhaps the GAA could learn a thing or two from eSports and follow the industry’s path to success instead. Rather than wait for the huge sponsors to flood competitive gaming in the early days, companies marketed themselves via other channels such as Twitch to gain spectators. Once eSports became a global hit, then the sponsorship deals came rolling in.

Irish sports could look to strike agreements with game developers to go digital and have a chance at reaching a greater number of people. For example, if a console offering based on hurling was able to gain traction, it could end up becoming an eSport like FIFA and raise awareness of the game in this way.

Another option would be to tap into the booming might of the online casino industry. Through slot games, there is often cross-promotion of brands from other places and this marketing model has been hugely successful. According to Bonusfinder Ireland, online casinos are already popular in the country. If developers targeted players here with games based on Irish sports, it could help these offerings establish more credibility before they are marketed in other places. There are already titles like Football Champions Cup and Football Star Deluxe at Wildz Casino, highlighting the buzzing audience for sport-themed games.

By using games to spread the word about hurling and Gaelic football, the GAA could harness the power of digitalisation and follow the same trajectory as competitive gaming. This sector was almost unheard of in the mainstream ten years ago, but now it looks set to overtake traditional sports thanks to its clever marketing model.

Irish sports aren’t going to attract massive sponsorship deals, which is why they have struggled to go global. But by opting for a different approach and harnessing the power of online gaming, there is a chance that sports like hurling and Gaelic football could be marketed to people around the world.

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