A Limerick company have put forward an alternative brand report for the League of Ireland

Jonathan Gabay's proposals were designed to reinvigorate the domestic game

BY Daniel Kelly 11:50 Saturday 17 December 2016, 11:50 17 Dec 2016

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Supporting Limerick FC inspired Shane McCarthy and two of his colleagues to try and come up with their version of a brand report that they believe would improve on what Jonathan Gabay presented to League of Ireland clubs on Thursday afternoon.

McCarthy, who is the CEO of BlueChief in Limerick, spent Friday morning with his colleagues brainstorming, and he produced his findings on social media that afternoon.

"We're a social media agency", McCarthy told Newstalk Sport after making his work public. "We create campaigns and strategies that help brands engage with clients and customers. This was right up our alleyway. I saw it on Thursday, a lot of our team are football fans. We saw it and said 'that makes no sense, how would we do it?'.

"We came in this morning, sat down for two hours and drew up the plan. We sent it to people because they need to see what could be done as opposed to the ideas given out. I didn't like any of them. They don't make sense. They're outdated."

While some of the ideas are implemented by clubs in the League already, McCarthy and his colleagues feel certain clubs, such as Cabinteely FC, are ahead of the curve when it comes to fan engagement, and other clubs need to follow suit.

The south-Dublin side finished second from bottom in the First Division last season, and despite their low status, the club continue to create headlines that only other teams could dream of.

"They have the best social media platform in Ireland", McCarthy admitted. "They would be in the top-three with ease. It shows that you don't need to be successful on the pitch to drive engagement."

BlueChief's Ten Point Plan for the League of Ireland

This is not the first time McCarthy has written about how sporting teams could be better run. Earlier this year, when at a game in Thomond Park, he was inspired to look at the problems facing Munster at the start of the season. 

"We wrote a blog on our website about how Munster should be engaging fans. We took some of the context of the blog, then we sat down ourselves and went: 'what actually are the problems in the League?'. They're saying it's the brand. It's not, it's the process behind the brand. It's how they engage with clubs."

While rights issues make it impossible for Premier Division teams to produce goal highlights for up to three days after games, McCarthy feels there is a way around it, to engage with fans with video content.

"That's no problem. Can you do weekly live-streams with players? Can you showcase practice drills? There are loads of other ways to produce content to engage fans. Can you do player profiles that will help young people want to be players like [Limerick captain] Shane Duggan? It's cost-effective and has no implications with RTE."

McCarthy estimated the report produced in Dublin on Friday may have cost "well into six figures". To put that into context, Premier League winners Dundalk will have received €110,000 for winning the league.

"If you asked us to come in and create an overall strategy for the League, you would be saying it would be less than €50,000, and that includes engaging with all the teams. If you were to invest €200,000 or €300,000 for two years, you would have a huge infrastructure built for the clubs. They would have their own brands, own identities and will be able to generate revenue. It's self-sufficiency, in a way. You're future-proofing clubs."

Dundalk's Europa League run has helped the promotion of the League. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Mikhail Kireev

Dundalk's story of winning the League of Ireland for the third season in a row, along with their run in the Europa League has been one of the Irish sporting highlights of 2016, but McCarthy feels the FAI have missed a unique opportunity to promote how good the league can be.

"Where is the content online mapping Dundalk's story?" he asked. "Why aren't the FAI covering this to show the potential of a League of Ireland club? Surely you should be showcasing your best features and best outputs?

Despite Gabay's assertions on Thursday during the presentation, McCarthy doesn't think that the League currently "is cool".

"With my professional hat on, there's huge potential in the league. If you keep approaching something that needs to be modernised with outdated concepts, all you're doing it stagnating the brand. I actually agree with some of [Gabay's] thought processes and philosophies.

"He's on about getting into the psyche of fans and knowing about what part of the brain to focus on with content to get a response. I agree with all of that, but I don't agree with any of his concepts or ideas. They're nonsense for what needs to be done to the league and whats adds value to the FAI, clubs most-importantly and second most-importantly, the fans."

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