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25 Aug 2014

Touchdown for tourism – Croke Park Classic set to attract up to 20,000 American football fans

Millions of Americans will see ads for Ireland this week on ESPN

Tourism Ireland campaign capitalises on American Football game for Irish tourism

Up to 20,000 American football fans are set to descend on Dublin this week, for the inaugural Croke Park Classic – the season opener between college football teams University of Central Florida (UCF) and Penn State, which takes place on 30 August in Croke Park.

Big-time names in American college football, both teams bring huge fanfare, providing Tourism Ireland with an ideal opportunity to highlight the island of Ireland in the United States – not just as a wonderful holiday destination but also a top location for sporting events.

Tourism Ireland has put in place a busy promotional programme, to maximise the tourism potential the big game offers for Dublin and Ireland. Millions of sports fans will be seeing ads for Ireland on TV across the United States, all of this week. From today (25 August), the ads are running on ESPN (the hugely popular sports network) and ESPN2 – around prime time programmes like Sports Center. The ads will also air during each half of the Croke Park Classic on Saturday.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Next weekend’s game between UCF and Penn States provides another very welcome boost for tourism from the United States this year. It promises to be a superb event, bringing all the ‘razzmatazz’ of a college football season opener to Dublin – and benefits to the island as a whole. Sports-related tourism has emerged as a very significant element of the global travel business in recent years and this game is another wonderful ‘hook’ for us to highlight Ireland in the all-important US market. We have put in place a busy promotional programme, to capitalise on the wonderful exposure offered by the match – including our TV campaign which will be seen by millions of people this week.

“2014 is set to be another record year for tourism from North America, with growth of +10.6% recorded for the first six months of this year. Tourism Ireland is working hard to keep that momentum going throughout 2014. We are spreading the word about the many great experiences that American holidaymakers can enjoy in Ireland, including our newest visitor experience, the Wild Atlantic Way.”

As well as this week’s advertising on ESPN, other activity to capitalise on the tourism benefits of this college football game has included:
  • Over the past year, Tourism Ireland has been working with Anthony Travel, the official travel company for both colleges – targeting thousands of supporters, alumni associations, family and friends. Promotions have included ads in Blue White Illustrated magazine (which covers Penn State football and athletics), in The Penn Stater magazine (targeting Penn State fans and alumni), in UCF football game programmes, radio ads during home and away games on the Penn State radio network, as well as the production of flyers and posters which were distributed at various Penn State and UCF events.
  • an article titled “Touchdown in Croke Park” appears on Tourism Ireland’s website,, describing our sporting heritage and telling prospective visitors all about some of the many great things to see and do here – including the pep rallies and tailgate parties set to take place in Temple Bar and Dublin Castle. Click here to view the page.
  • Social media: Tourism Ireland has also been using social media extensively, with various posts about the game (particularly this spring, to coincide with ticket sales) and competitions to win tickets to the Croke Park Classic – targeting its Facebook fans (almost 680,000 fans in the US alone) and Twitter followers.  
  • Publicity and PR: ongoing updates about the game – and the island of Ireland – have been issued by Tourism Ireland to its database of American and other media contacts across the world; this has included targeting publications in Britain, France and Germany that are aimed at the American community.  
  • Online advertising: an online advertising campaign (on Facebook) also targeted American Football fans in the key markets of Britain, France and Germany.

The Croke Park Classic will be the first time that UCF and Penn State have played outside the United States. The last time an American Football game took place in Croke Park was 18 years ago, in 1996, when Notre Dame defeated Navy. Both colleges were back in Dublin in 2012, when they attracted a capacity attendance of almost 50,000 at the Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road. Next Saturday (30 August), UCF and Penn State will be playing for the Dan Rooney Trophy, named after the former US ambassador to Ireland and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Notes To Editors

  • Tourism Ireland is the organisation responsible for promoting the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination.
  • Tourism is the island of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry; responsible for in excess of 4% of GNP in the Republic of Ireland and employing approximately 200,000 people.
  • In 2013, an estimated 8 million overseas visitors visited the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of approximately €3.64 billion. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59% of all tourism revenue.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, available in ten different language versions for over 30 individual markets around the world.