Converting America (Part 4): Embrace the new media

Welcome to Part 4 of my series about how the Gaelic Athletic Association can increase interest and participation in their sports here in America. Now on to the entry …

In America, and I would assume the rest of the world, the youth culture has whole-heartedly embraced technology. Whatever is new is what they want.

BIG CROWD: GAA games in Ireland regularly fill thousands of seats.

If the GAA, the international governing body of the Irish sports of hurling and gaelic football, wants to capture an American (and world-wide) audience, it must dive into these technologies and make their sports the sport of a new generation. The first step, of course, is to actually be available to that generation, and the GAA has clearly bungled that effort.

But all is certainly not lost. The GAA can turn things around in a matter of months if acts quickly, and here’s a game plan for them.

  • Build a feeder website – For most of the world, hurling and gaelic football are an oddity. In fact, it’s not too crazy to assume that most of the world has never even heard of either sport. The GAA needs to change that, and the best way is to build a multi-language “feeder” website that lays out the basics of the sports, without going crazy on the details. It should entail a snapshot of the sports’ history, a basic guide on their rules, some videos of each, a checklist of items you need to play and a simple storefront for basic supplies. Once you’ve got this, promote the heck out of it at Irish festivals, Irish bars, the Olympics, sporting events and anywhere else that seems appropriate.
  • Get a YouTube channel. Get a Twitter account. Get a Facebook page – I am still puzzled why the GAA doesn’t have (or at least doesn’t advertise) accounts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Each of these are vital to reaching out to the tech-savvy crowd. On YouTube, regularly post quality videos of match highlights. On Twitter, pump up big games and venues where Americans can see them. On Facebook, promote local clubs, highlight key matches, point out equipment suppliers and create a general push for hurling and gaelic football.
  • Freshen up the North American GAA site — Go on, take a look at the North American GAA site. It’s not a disaster or anything, but it certainly is boring. The site needs a new look, daily fresh content and be made to clearly promote its sports.

    ONE STEP BEYOND: The GAA app for iPhone looks great, but what about Android users? And how about something for those who play the sports instead of catering only to spectators?

    It also needs an updated guide on the clubs that are currently active. If the Irish GAA needs to take over the site, so be it. Once things get working right, it could hand it back to the North Americans.

  • Build a gaelic games app – (Updated from my initial entry) Smartphones and their so-called “app programs” are huge. The GAA desperately needs to reconsider the app they have available for their sports. It shouldn’t be a simple scoreboard program. It certainly  needs to provide scores, but it should also house player profiles, team histories, international activities, game rules, videos and coaching tips. Or better yet, make an app for each of those categories and for both sports. Frankly, the GAA needs to go a step further and help those trying to play their sports, not just an app for spectators. Additionally, the GAA needs an app for the other big platform — Android-brand phones.
  • PLAYSTATION 2 GAME: In 2007, Transmission Games published a hurling video game, which included an instructional DVD for real-life players.

  • Keep building video games – Back in 2007, a company called Transmission Games came out with a few video games: One featured hurling, two featured gaelic football, and I believe a fourth came out that combined the two gaelic games on one disc.  (There’s also a game advertised here, but I know of no other information on it.) Unfortunately, all the Transmission Games publications got terrible reviews and only worked on Region 2 Playstation 2 consoles.  Regardless of their initial reception, the GAA should subsidize the development of new games and make them available on a worldwide market. Sure, they won’t be big sellers, but their very existence might convince video game junkies to put down the controller and pick up a hurley. In this case, any recognition of your sport is good.
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