Patrick Nally appointed to spearhead a programme to access the sizeable Irish Diaspora in the US Market

London. 14th November, 2016 The Irish Rugby Football Union and University of Notre Dame have agreed a ground-breaking partnership to promote and develop rugby at Notre Dame and consequently across the United States. The agreement is the first step in brand-building and commercial development programme in the USA by the IRFU which has appointed Patrick Nally, widely regarded as a chief architect of modern sports marketing, to develop a commercial programme. Under the agreement Notre Dame and the IRFU will share knowledge and expertise and develop joint projects in areas including player development, coaching and conditioning, sports medicine and psychology. The agreement will also be the building block to generate awareness of the Irish Rugby brand among the 33 million strong Irish-American community and create new commercial opportunities. Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States and has strong roots in the college system. The growing presence and influence of the US men’s Sevens team on the world stage has helped drive interest in the game and the highly successful, nationally and internationally televised, Las Vegas Sevens tournament goes from strength-to-to-strength. Nicknamed ‘The Fighting Irish,’ University of Notre Dame – located near South Bend, Indiana – has one of the most successful and best-respected collegiate sports programmes in the world and has built a strong academic, sporting and commercial brand which resonates globally. The links between Ireland and Notre Dame sports are evidenced by the two games played by the university’s (American) football team against Navy in Dublin in 1996 and 2012. The Rugby Partnership between the IRFU and University of Notre Dame is set in the context of this growing interest in the game and the acknowledged potential of the US market to embrace and sustain it. The IRFU believes that University of Notre Dame’s sporting heritage and strong Irish links make it the perfect partner in a venture which will not only strengthen rugby in the United States but help build the brand of Irish rugby and the fan-base of its National and Provincial teams. With 33 million Americans of Irish ancestry, the IRFU sees the US as a home-away-from-home and will seek to develop new commercial relationships as its brand and fan-base grow. Patrick Nally said: “The partnership with Notre Dame is an ideal building block for a commercial programme which captures the growing interest in rugby and passion and pride felt by over 30 million Americans in their Irish heritage.
“Ireland’s historic victory over the New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago recently crystallised the excitement about the game and the level of support for Ireland. It was a landmark event in every respect and we will now work to build the brand of the Irish national and provincial teams in the United States and create opportunities for US businesses to connect with markets around the world through their association with the teams. “This is the dawn of a new era for rugby in the USA and the IRFU wants to do its bit to make it happen. The US is a huge and empathetic market and helping rugby grow in the USA will be good for the game worldwide.”
Welcoming the Partnership agreement Stephen Hilditch President of the IRFU said:
“We are proud to Partner with University of Notre Dame which has been at the forefront of collegiate sport in the United States throughout its history and which has been among the trail-blazers in developing collegiate rugby. “We look forward to playing a full part in helping develop the strength of Notre Dame rugby and the culture of the sport at the University. We are convinced that will, in turn, help drive the popularity of the sport throughout and beyond the collegiate system in a nation which continues to demonstrate its interest in rugby. “The United States also represents a huge potential market for Irish Rugby and the Partnership is a key element of a broader strategy to build awareness and create real engagement with existing and potential rugby fans among the 10.3 percent of the US population with Irish roots. “They are first and foremost proud Americans but we will embrace and value their support.”
Justin Hickey, Director of Rugby at the University of Notre Dame said:
“The Partnership with the Irish Rugby Football Union marks the beginning of a new era for rugby at Notre Dame and throughout the United States. “By working closely and sharing information and expertise, techniques and processes, both parties will grow together towards achieving their particular goals. “Notre Dame’s renowned expertise in player development, sports medicine and other areas on and off the field will help strengthen the Irish teams while working closely with Ireland’s coaches and support staff, who are among the best in the world, will help elevate Notre Dame rugby to new levels and, in doing so, raise the standards across collegiate rugby.”