Pitching Ideas



Like every other sector in Ireland the sponsorship market has had to face up to the new economic reality in recent years. While sponsorship continues to deliver positive results, the sponsorship landscape has undergone major changes. This has been very apparent within the mid tier of sport sponsorship in Ireland where long term partnerships, particularly in county GAA, have ended leaving counties faced with the harsh reality of having to find new sponsors. At one point in 2011, eight counties were seeking new sponsors; more recently we have seen two of the longer term relationships end, with Tegral and 02 moving on from Kildare and Cork respectively, while Largo Foods’ Tayto and Hunky Dorys signed up to Meath and Tyrone.

While the pull of GAA games remains high and at the top level sponsorship remains strong, county boards need sponsorship investment more than ever and for many the task of securing new commercial partners is a daunting one. Potential sponsors now expect much more than their brand emblazoned on a jersey, match tickets and invites to the awards. Sponsors are no longer loyal county patrons but know what they want and they demand a pay- back.

Counties seeking new sponsors must up their game and be prepared to present the sponsorship opportunities around their respective county in a manner that ticks all of the prospective sponsor’s boxes. Considerations for counties seeking new sponsorship partners include jersey and merchandise branding. Prepare a full listing and display examples of all jersey designs and merchandise options for displaying a new sponsor logo or name. Provide details around jersey and merchandise sales over previous seasons, giving a potential sponsor a sense of how big a footprint their brand/logo would have among supporters.

In terms of pitch and stadium branding, again preparation is key. Provide examples of pitch side and stadium branding opportunities, remembering to take into account TV arcs, that is areas of the pitch captured by TV cameras. Sponsors will always seek clever and innovative ways to have a brand presence at match grounds and the more information provided the better.

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Young Dubs fans Aimee and Jack Maguire with Roscommon footballer Donie Shine at an Eircom photocall to launch the GAA Facebook app.

Many counties have long-standing supporters’ associations and groups. Some are based in the county and others in the major cities. Provide details of the key point of contacts, how they communicate with supporters and what type of membership they have. The more detail the better, as the ability to access and communicate with a targeted membership can be invaluable.

Provide a clear account of the digital and social footprint of the county GAA. Show off the website and identify how the new sponsor can be shown online, including links, imagery and logos and provide traffic figures. Showcase the social media platforms. It is an area where some counties have been slower than others to engage. Some will have social media profiles in place on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while others will be aware of supporters’ profiles. As this is a key engagement point for a potential sponsor, it is important that counties get a handle on these in advance and are able to answer any questions around stats and admin access.

A calendar of actvity seems like a simple and obvious item, but better to flag it, than not. For any potential sponsor a clear roadmap of all of the communications activities that a county will engage in during the year or season can be valuable. It shows a county has a plan for its communications activities and provides the sponsor with more opportunities to engage beyond the traditional set pieces. Crucially, it also avoids any last minute requests to sponsors.

Sponsorship contracts is an area which causes a deep intake of breath as many counties tend to under-estimate the level of detail required by sponsors in negotiating a sponsorship contract. Ultimately, it is a positive document, as a sponsorship agreement, protects both parties and sets out all the rights and agreements between both parties. A successful sponsorship relationship will mean that this document once signed will not be required for consultation, but you need to have one in place. For counties negotiating with potential sponsors, I would recommend that they have both a sponsorship expert and a legal eagle review any new deal.

As mentioned at the start of this article, sponsors invest a lot of time and money in a sponsorship agreement and often identify a sponsorship manager to act on their behalf in negotiating and then activating a sponsorship partnership. It makes sense for a county point of contact to be identified, someone who will liaise with the sponsor, the county board and with the various teams and management. It may often be a PRO, but it is not beyond reason to imagine larger counties appointing a sponsorship manager to work with their sponsors.


John McGuinness is an account director with Murray Consultants and leads the agency’s sport sponsorship engagement. He is a member of Bornacoola GAA Club in Co Leitrim.

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