My Career, My Story - John Gillick

John Gillick, Head of Consumer Marketing & Sponsorship gives us an insight into his role, time at AIG and talks all things sponsorship!

Can you give a brief background into your role and how you got into the insurance industry?

I am currently the Head of Consumer Marketing and Sponsorship for AIG Ireland. I am part of the team responsible for building AIG’s value proposition across our consumer suite of products that includes car, home, travel, car hire excess and accident & health (‘A&H’) to the Irish market.

Going back to my college years, I went to DIT and completed a Bachelor’s in Marketing and then I went on to do a postgraduate in Strategic Management. From a young age, I had an interest in marketing and advertising and it has always been a career ambition of mine. I was very lucky that I always knew what I wanted to do and was able to succeed in this field.  

I started out in banking in Ireland and then went to Australia where I got the opportunity to work on the sponsorship team for the Olympics in 2002. Needless to say, it was a work hard, play hard environment – from what I remember!

Later, I then moved back to Ireland and worked in a completely different industry in petroleum & retail but still within a marketing capacity.

Then I made the big move into insurance working for AIG. My friend Ed Clune was working in AIG at the time and he painted a great picture of the organisation being young, dynamic and great fun (I’m sure it still is if you don’t have two young kids at home!).

Initially, I was brought in as a Marketing Executive to run A&H campaigns. It was great experience for me to learn marketing campaign management and direct marketing skills while also getting to know the business from  an underwriting perspective, assisting with operations, liaising with the call centre, creating marketing collateral, advertising and ultimately being responsible for sales and reporting. I was the only marketing person within AIG Ireland at the time which opened up a lot of opportunities as the business evolved i.e. when car, home, travel and other insurance projects launched.

It was great to have such autonomy and scope within my role and I believe that this significantly contributed to my career progression within AIG. I feel that as AIG has evolved and progressed as a business so have I, both personally and professionally.

A career milestone for me was when I was part of the team that led the acquisition of the Dublin GAA sponsorship from negotiations to on-boarding. It was the signal of the arrival of our direct to consumer business in Ireland in a meaningful way which was very exciting. Our brand awareness went from virtually nil to over 80% in a very short time frame to help advance our business. It really propelled AIG into another level.

Can you explain what your average day looks like?

Every day is different! It brings new challenges and it’s very exciting. There are always multiple campaigns to manage across numerous media and distribution channels to keep us busy.

I have to be on top of what campaigns are currently live and monitoring those that are in production. There is of course certain housekeeping tasks, compliance, reporting and regulatory requirements that need attention but I’m lucky enough to have a great Marketing & Sponsorship Executive, Rebecca Claffey, who is extremely organised and is really able to get things done in the organisation. You could be doing creative production one day, campaign planning, agency management, sponsorship activation the next or I could be out with Dublin GAA at an event or PR gig! In addition to my local role, I also work closely with the Global Sponsorship team for AIG where I could be on the phone with New York one minute and New Zealand the next! It is fantastic to work for a company with such a vast global network and my role has given me the opportunity and privilege to travel overseas to Europe, America and New Zealand on work related matters.

Can you describe your proudest moment working for AIG?

I’m very lucky to say that there has been a few! The announcement of the Dublin GAA sponsorship was a clear milestone acknowledging all the work I had put in and it was amazing to see how it was received!

The launch of AIG Direct where we were able to sell products like car, home and travel directly to customers was a great achievement and a turning point in AIG Ireland’s history.

The first time the All Blacks came to Ireland in 2013 was overwhelming but an unforgettable experience. They were the dominant team in the world at the time and hadn’t visited Ireland in a long time. We hosted a skills challenge and generated the most coverage we’ve ever received in Ireland. We pulled it off with very little resource and it’s actually comical when I think about the chaos of setting up and running the event. Myself and the General Manager, Declan O’Rourke, were constructing the goal posts on site, we were a bit of naïve of the scale of such an event but it shows how we all roll our sleeves up and work together when needed. There’s no time for egos in AIG – everyone plays multiple roles to get things done.  

What does inclusion mean to you and how it is evident at AIG?

On a personal level, I feel I’ve always been given the opportunity to go for any role, have people hear my opinion and it’s very much an open door policy.

It’s about providing everyone the same opportunity. No discrimination. Bring ideas to the table and you’ll be heard. No matter your level in the organisation or background, your opinions will be listened too. This is very much led by our Senior Leadership team here who have fostered that culture and are really approachable! AIG Ireland is a dynamic, ambitious and progressive environment with a culture that promotes innovation, agility and also not to be afraid to fail as long as you learn. Test and learn is a key element of marketing so that culture fits well.

Speaking on the sponsorship side of things, inclusion is central to what we do and our brand. AIG sponsor all four codes of Dublin GAA including the ladies football and camogie teams. This also applies to our Irish golf partnership, tennis and badminton relationships. This year, we are really excited to be a part of the 20x20 initiative highlighting the need for more media participation and attendance at ladies sports – not just GAA. It’s a national movement that we are incredibly proud to be a part of. Most recently AIG went a step further with its sponsorships and became the title sponsor of the AIG Women’s British Open Golf Championship so a female only sponsorship with no male aspect to it so we look forward to exploring any activation opportunities around it for us here in Ireland.

Can you explain how sponsorship plays a role in building AIG’s brand?

As I said, our brand awareness was virtually nil before the sponsorship. We always have to take a step back and look at the objectives. We have three core pillars to our objectives and activation strategy, including brand (awareness, trust, credibility, how we are seen), business (how is it driving mix/quotes/sales?) and sponsorship (what do we want the sponsorship to deliver, building an affinity with our customers, likeability, targeting segments etc.) so there is certainly a lot of moving parts that we need to be on top of!

The commercial department also provide our corporate clients and broker partners with access to events, matches and players to help support their business.

AIG and Dublin GAA have great alignment in our values. Reliability, leadership, strength, teamwork, etc and obviously we’re both winners in our fields (no bias here!).

How do you help others in the community through your work?

We’ve always used our sponsorship to work at a grassroots community level. The power of sponsorship allows us to really get out there and make an impact. It’s great to be involved in such great initiatives that make a difference. Every year, we host AIG Heroes events where children from surrounding schools and GAA clubs get the chance to part-take in various training drills with stars from Dublin GAA. We’re doing a lot of work In the North East Inner City including offering work placements and setting up a GAA academy. We also have a partnership with Aoibheann’s Pink Tie who are a local charity that help children and families battling cancer in Ireland. We donated our sponsorship on the front of the Dublin GAA jersey for four games last year across the Dublin GAA men’s and ladies teams and that was really special. It was amazing for us to be able to donate our sponsorship assets to raise monumental awareness for this great cause.

What does AIG reaching 100 years mean to you? Why is it significant?

What it means to me personally is that I am with a company that has been around a long time and has a rich history! We have shown how strong, capable and resilient we are as an organisation. I’ve been with the company throughout many ups and downs (as every company has), but we’re still here and fighting and I’m proud to work for one of the biggest insurance companies in the world.

What are your ambitions for the future?

On a personal level, to watch my young family grow up happy, healthy and maybe even play for Dublin GAA!

On a professional level, my ambitions are to be the best I can in my career and fulfill any potential I may have through hard work, collaboration, learning and drive. At AIG Ireland, we are on a journey to further grow and build out a successful best in class customer centric innovative business. It is our aim to grow a well-known and trusted household brand in the Irish market. This journey is not over and we have big ambitions and plans to develop the business and brand over the next few years through a number of exciting initiatives that I look forward to working on with the AIG team. Watch this space!

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