Caroline Donnellan, director of brand and marketing, Sky Ireland, was unveiled as this year’s Marketer of the Year winner at a lunch in Fire restaurant attended by some of the industry’s top marketers. Donnellan was selected for her achievements in spearheading a new strategy for Sky which saw a global brand with close ties to the UK win over Irish consumers through local connections.
Donnellan has almost 20 years’ experience in marketing. She joined Sky almost four years ago, having previously worked with EBS Building Society and KBC Bank. Her MotY submission was based on the strategies she pioneered at Sky Ireland over the past 18 months. Up to then, the local Sky team was part of a UK set-up, ‘lifting and shifting’ campaigns for the Irish market.
Sky’s new strategy was centred around creating local autonomy for the brand in Ireland. The aim was to build stronger brand affinity, connect more with Irish consumers and drive better results across brand and sales metrics. While brand awareness was not a concern, Sky faced a fast-changing market with an explosion in consumer demand for streaming services during the pandemic.
While streaming grew, the paid TV market declined. Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon were spending heavily and impacting on Sky’s share of voice. Donnellan had to unite Sky’s UK and Irish marketing teams and bring together brand strategy and activation. It was decided to rely less on Sky Creative output in the UK and develop a new model in Dublin and hire Core as its local agency.
Donnellan devised a plan to build a best-in-class marketing team, champion local campaigns and strengthen Irish connections with a preferential focus on under 35s and young families. Prompted by its heritage as a sports brand, Sky chose to become the first lead sponsor of Ireland’s women’s football team. The platform kicked off in September 2021 under the Outbelieve banner.
The results saw Sky Ireland embed a new marketing structure and culture. The company won marketing team of the year at the Marketing Institute’s AIM awards. Commercial results were delivered through local ownership. The Outbelieve women’s national football team sponsorship grew brand affinity by 23 per cent and Sky Glass was its biggest ever product launch in Ireland.
This year’s Marketer of the Year saw three submissions shortlisted by the judges. Donnellan was joined by Aislinn O’Connor (above), marketing director of Three for both the UK and Ireland, and Fiona Fagan, marketing director, Lidl Ireland. However, unfortunately due to personal circumstances, Fagan had to withdraw from the competition ahead of the final presentations to the judges.
In her presentation, Aislinn O’Connor outlined the highlights of her work in recent years, which included the Irish marketing function of Three Ireland to be ranked as the global best in class with the CK Hutchinson network. As marketing director for the two markets, she was tasked with leading a team of 130 people across quite separate businesses, with two in-house agency teams.
O’Connor explained her strategies following Three’s acquisition of 02 from Telefonica. Customer insight indicated that while 02 customers knew little about Three, 02 was a widely trusted and popular brand. The biggest risk for the merging brands was a potentially skittish and sizeable customer base. O’Connor developed plans to retain the base through the transition period.
Three’s advertising campaigns created by Boys+Girls with media by Core won major awards. ‘Connected Island’ was a major stand-out at Cannes, the Effies and the AIMs. At the MotY presentations, the two finalists were asked for their top career tips. Donnellan said: “Trust your gut, your instinct… yourself.” O’Connor said: “Follow your nose when learning new things.”
Sky’s Outbelieve paid handsome dividends: Sky Ireland took a gamble on signing up as the first lead sponsor of the national women’s football team to create more local connections. The team qualified for the first time for this year’s World Cup finals in Australia and secured equal pay. Outbelieve took home three gongs from the European Sponsorship Awards (ESAs). Ireland captain and Arsenal player Katie McCabe fronted the campaign created by Core.
The MotY judging panel was chaired by Barry Dooley, chief executive of the Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI). Judging the entries were Kevin Kent, head of marketing, Laya; Orlaith Blaney, director of corporate affairs, Uisce Eireann; Meabh Clohosey, director of brand marketing and loyalty, Aer Lingus and Ruth O’Shea, director and head of marketing and communications, Grant Thornton.
Also on board were Kevin Donnelly, managing director, Britvic Ireland; Laura Lynch, group chief marketing officer, Bank of Ireland; Steven Roberts, head of marketing, Griffith College; Luke Reaper, managing director, Ipsos B&A; Paul Dervan, head of branding, Miro; Emma Walls, commercial director, Glenisk and Suzanne Weldon, chief marketing and communications officer, BWG Foods.
First launched by Marketing.ie in 1993, this year’s campaign was created by MotY sponsor Dynamo. The campaign slogan was ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble’ and posed the question: ‘Are You Ireland’s Next Heavyweight Marketing Champion?’ The judges look for marketers with a proven track record, who have succeeded through exceptional strategic direction and marketing innovation.
Candidates need to show outstanding brand and business success through creative and effective marketing communications. They should have a track record of driving growth for their brand and business. They should also have a background in leadership, having managed, upskilled and inspired teams.
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