Sport goes on scoring

Sport goes on scoring

David Coyle

Brian O'Driscoll lifting the cup celebrating Ireland's Six Nations win against Wales marked the end of the recession in Ireland. Leinster's win against Leicester to become Heineken Cup Champions surely marks the beginning of Celtic Tiger Part II? Well, okay, that's a stretch but rugby is going some way to give Irish sports fans a form of escapism they so desperately need when times are tough. Let's look at why brands are more eager than ever to bask in the glory, whatever the price, whatever the climate.

Where fans go, brands will follow. It's to the sports ground, not the pub, more people are flocking. Thomond Park doubled its capacity to 26,000 despite the current downturn and commands capacity crowds for most games. Leinster's move to the RDS from Donnybrook saw attendances rise from 5,000 to 18,000, generating far more revenue and giving brands access to more fans than before.

Success on the sports field comes with greater commercial success off it. Despite the economic climate, brands are spending on rubbing shoulders with some of the best sporting teams and individuals in the world. Major deals like Bank of Ireland's sponsorship of Leinster are supplemented with a number of additional off-the-pitch sponsorship deals that stack up to make sport a business to embrace.

It's not just teams that are cashing in. Ireland's rugby stars are individually benefiting from brands that want to be associated with winners. O'Driscoll has deals with Gillette, Paul O'Connell with O2 while the younger generation of players such as Rob Kearney have deals with brands Nike, Audi and Glanbia.

It's looking reasonably good for GAA too. As ever, GAA has a vice like grip on the nation through its grassroots network of over 2,000 clubs nationwide. The network provides a strong supply of fans to its games and, by association, to the GAA's commercial sponsors, including Ulster Bank and Cadbury's.

While attendances were slightly down last year, 1.5million fans passed through the turnstiles. This year Dublin and Tyrone kicked off the football league in front of 82,000 fans in Croke Park. So, as punters continue to spend on sport, GAA's best supporting brands like Guinness remain loyal.

Soccer's scoring with Hibernian Aviva's recent groundbreaking deal worth €20m for its naming rights on the new stadium at Lansdowne Road. For the business of sport, what's happening in Ireland seems to be echoed globally. UK broadcasting rights for the English Premiership reached a record breaking

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