Heroes & Villains 2016

As the year draws to a close we’ve asked a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Irish adults who their heroes and villains of 2016 were.

2016 Villains

At an total level the villain….. and second place hero of 2016, is US President Elect Donald Trump. Having been such a controversial figure across much of 2016, “The Donald” has dominated the headlines and attention of both those who loathe and love him. Much has been written about Trump, and rather than add to the tomes and multiple musing, we merely reflect that he is the quintessential marmite of 2016.

Sticking with the malevolent theme of 2016, Russian strongman President Vladimir Putin was a distant second to Trump, but was indeed the second most maligned person of 2016. His endorsement of and support for the Bashar al-Assad Syrian forces has earned him the contempt of Ireland. The main protagonist, al-Assad in the bitter Syrian war also was widely put forward as top villain of 2016. He failed to break into the top 3 but has earned a dishonourable mention on the list of Villains.

With Trump earning both Villain and Hero status in 2016, there is a clear theme of duopoly emerging. This is replicated in Trump’s main Presidential opponent Hilary Clinton being positioned on the bronze medal podium. That both frontrunners presented as an alternative choice ended up within the top 3 villains indicates much about the complexities of not only the US presidential election, but the mood of the global zeitgeist and tension between increasingly disconnected and opposing interests. 

2016 Heroes

Stepping out of the imposing Trump shaped shadow, the heroes of 2016 were firstly grass root inspirations all around us. Friends and family members of many shapes and sizes gave inspiration and hope to Ireland across 2016. Some of the personalised and uplifting stories were not only inspiring for what they were themselves, but provide a large dollop of hope and optimism that grass root values and inspiration have more than answered the call to provide hope and positivity across 2016 in the seeming vacuum of leadership and direction from the establishment. Although not making the top 3, Davitt Walsh received numerous plaudits to just miss out based on his literally lifesaving efforts in the tragic Buncranna Pier tragedy. He is the quintessential grass root hero who has earned our admiration in 2016 and has earned a fitting honourable mention in the hero standings.

With duopolistic Trump occupying second place in the hero stakes of 2016, lets move quickly to the third place hero of 2016. Conor McGregor, not one to accept anything but first, must be content with a bronze in 2016, but nonetheless his achievements in 2016 along with the manner in which he has courted attention has earned him a place on the hero role of honour. McGregor himself has been somewhat of a controversial and divisive charter in 2016, but the scales has tipped to ensure he has earned hero status despite a sizable minority nominating him as a villain.

Villains by Category 

We also decided to ask Ireland about who their heroes and villains were in a range of specific categories (celebrities, sports personalities, social influencers, business people and both world and Irish politics).

The theme of Trump remains omnipresent, with the President Elect picking up the title of biggest villain in the categories of social influencers, business, and world politics. Irish political villain was Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but a notably close second place was bestowed to Gerry Adams. The Kanye West – Kim Kardashian double act easily won the happy couple the title of celebrity villains of 2016.

With many options to choose from as sporting villains across 2016, it was the Russian state sponsored doping which has been voted the sporting villain of the year.

Heroes by Category

Finishing on a positive with heroes, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been a polarising personality within Ireland as potentially Trump has been globally. With many giving him credit for overseeing recovery (for some) in 2016 he has won title of Irish Political hero of 2016.

Outgoing President Obama is the world political hero of 2016. Obama’s first term inauguration almost 8 years ago was welcomed with hope and optimism. Despite criticism and challenges along the way, the prospect of change has now moved from hope and optimism to trepidation and uncertainty.

In the world of celebrities, Scarlett Moffatt has picked up the gong. She endeared the public with through Gogglebox where her personality shone through and won the affections of Ireland.

Not surprisingly (considering placing as third overall hero), Conor McGregor was the winner and crowned sports person of 2016. Katie Taylor, the O’Donovan Brothers and Dundalk's successful season were close contenders, but couldn’t topple the understated McGregor.

Despite the plaudits for Ireland being the silicon docks of Europe and many unicorn success stories, sometimes old habits die hard. Business hero of the year is a familiar protagonist in the shape of Michael O’Leary. O’Leary, never shy, has had many ups and downs in terms of public opinion, but possibly the softer brand tone in recent years is starting to endear the Irish public to our own local boy done good.

Last, and certainly by no means least, the social hero of 2016 was Farther Peter McVerry for his tremendous work, not just this year but continuously in the fight against homelessness, drug misuse and social disadvantage.

With polarising charters (Trump, Kenny, McGregor, Clinton) a major theme in 2016, we await 2017 with a curious and somewhat cautious note.

However with grassroots heroes dominating 2016 things look promising and with people power rather than establishment (or brand) power set to take a the lead what will this mean for brands and businesses in 2017. To find out more read Ignite’s 2017 planning perspective here.

Happy Christmas and all the best for 2017.