The GAA Championship is one of the hottest sponsorship properties in Irish sport but commercial backing runs deeper through provinces and counties at every level.
In 2019 the sponsorship landscape is a very varied one across the different counties. Over the coming weeks, we will run through each of them with a look at who they have attached to their county ‘brand’, and how the association is working to improve both sides.
Sport for Business is a membership organisation, working closely with major sporting organisations including the GAA, Leinster GAA, Dublin GAA and others as well as major sponsors including AIB, sponsors of the All Ireland Club and Senior Football Championships.
Tradition runs deep in Kerry GAA and it is hard to imagine the teams taking to the field in anything other than a Kerry Group sponsored jersey.
The multinational food producer has been there since 1991, zeroing in on 30 years of association with the county team and you can glean an insight into why by listening to Group Head of Corporate Affairs Frank Hayes who was quoted at one of the many renewals down the years as saying “The GAA is part of the life-blood of communities in County Kerry and Kerry Group has a long record of partnership with Kerry County Board in the development of Gaelic games in the County. It is important to all our stakeholders that Kerry’s success in Gaelic Games continues to flourish into the future.”
They invested €1 million in the development of the Kerry Centre of Excellence, alongside other generous philanthropic donors through the friends of Kerry.
The partnership extends to Ladies Football and Camogie as well and if there was one that would stand the buffeting winds of change, you’d have to think it was this in the Kingdom.
In January of 2019 Brady Family Ham and Kildare GAA announced a four year extension of their partnership, running through to 2023. That will mean a ten year sponsorship with the locally based meat manufacturer having first come on board in 2013.
In addition to the deal on sponsorship of the County Men’s football and hurling they also extended the partnership, over the same four year period, to include a front of shirt partnership with the Kildare Ladies Football and Camogie teams.
“Kildare GAA, Camogie and LGFA form the backbone of the community and provide a multitude of positive benefits to all who participate in the sport,” said Managing Director John O’Brien announcing the deal.
“Brady Family Ham will do its utmost to support their endeavours through to 2023.”
In February of 2019, Glanbia signed up to another three years as the main sponsors of Kilkenny GAA all the way through from U14 to the senior team. While sponsorship can never be taken for granted, it was perhaps one of the less surprising renewals having been in place now for 26 years since 1993.
Glanbia uses the front of the Kilkenny shirt to promote Avonmore while leisure and training kit carries the parent Glanbia brand.
It is one of the more traditional kits and the Avonmore logo itself has not changed since the 1990s. If of interest only as part of a table quiz, the sponsor that was on the Kilkenny shirts prior to Avonmore was local construction company, Mahon & McPhillips.
Glanbia’s sponsorship also extends to the inter-county Camogie teams.
Laois has worn the logo of plant hire specialist MW Hire Group since 2010. This is the third year of the current three year deal. Matty Walsh has been a strong supporter during that time with the initial deal reported at the time to have been worth six figures.
The sponsorship extends to the Men’s football and hurling teams while OpenApp, a healthcare technology service sponsors the Ladies Football team. That deal is now into the fourth year and has included a bursary towards a college education for a number of players.
The local Laois Shopping Centre sponsors the senior Championships and Leagues while Gala is on board at Juvenile level.
The Laois Offaly Education and Training Board came on board last year in a three-year deal to secure naming rights for the Laois Centre of Excellence near O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
Leitrim have been to Croke Park twice this season, first for the Allianz League Division 4 Final and then for the Lory Meagher Cup. Considering you’d fit the entire 32,000 population into the Cusack Stand alone that’s a fair achievement.
The hurlers on Sunday carried the brand of Tyrellair but the footballers are in the first year of a three year deal with JP Clarke’s a bar in Yonkers in New York that is run by a Leitrim couple.
The sponsorship was announced back last October on County Finals day and it saw the bar coming in to replace the Bush Hotel which had adorned the shirt for ten years.
That was a month after Avantcard, the largest employer in Carrick On Shannon signed a three-year deal to become the naming rights partner of Avantcard Páirc Sean MacDiarmada.
Limerick is the only one of the counties within the GAA that does not have the name of a sponsor on the front of its shirts. As the reigning All Ireland hurling Champions and one of the major population centres in the country that may seem unusual but so too has their backing been since 2005.
That was the year in which JP McManus took over in a personal capacity as the principal backer of the county teams, stepping in for the Moran Hotel Group which had been there for four years before that.
Since then the Sporting Limerick brand has been on the shirt front but in the wake of the All Ireland success last year, a more classic look was decided upon for the foreseeable future.
McManus has remained very much on board as a supporter and the County Board recently signed a naming rights deal with Limerick Institute of technology for the LIT Gaelic Grounds that will host the 2019 Munster Hurling Final.
Philanthropic sponsorship is still very much underutilised in Ireland compared to other countries around the world. In Limerick though, this is a world-class example of how powerful it can be.
Longford GAA has always been about local. In 2012 Glennon Brothers a timber company based in the county came on board as the principal sponsors and seven years on that initial three years deal has expanded to still be there.
They replaced another long term deal with the Longford Arms Hotel. It’s a rarity for Longford to make it to the heady heights of Croke Park or the Sunday Game Live so there are different metrics and different motivations that apply to some of the larger counties.
They did win a Leinster Title but it was back in 1968. They won Division 3 of the Allianz National League in 2012, following up the Division Four title the previous year and the Leinster Minor Championship in 2014. There will always be days but it’s a more modest set of ambitions than most.
Glennon Brothers sponsor the stadium in Longford Town and local Hyundai dealership supports the Annual Race Day but there is no sponsor page on the Longford GAA website. Whatever support is needed is based more on emotion than a strictly calibrated return on investment.
And all that aside they do have one of the best-named club teams in the sport, the Longford Slashers. They are sponsored by the local Seat dealership.
Louth is in the third year of their partnership with Newry based but global-facing StatSports. Theirs is the technology worn beneath the shirts of Liverpool FC and Irish Rugby but on the front of those worn by Louth’s inter-county Senior, U20 and Minor teams.
Speaking at the time of the partnership being announced in 2017 StatSports founder Sean O’Connor said “we are proud to be able to assist with the promotion of Gaelic Games within County Louth and beyond.”
“Gaelic Games have been a part of STATSports’ growth from its early days, and as such, we are delighted to be able to contribute to the development within our local county. We look forward to the partnership, both on and off the field, over the coming years, in the hope, that in some way, we can play our part in bringing about some success”.
The county shirts had previously been sponsored by Morgan Fuels and before that, briefly, by Ladbrokes, in a sponsorship that would now be forbidden under GAA rules on betting sponsorship.
History means a lot in Mayo and the fact that Intersport Elverys are entering their 22nd year as the sponsor of the Senior Men’s U20 and Minor teams is important in the county.
On board since 1998, the local based sports retailer doubled down on its local commitment in 2011 when it became the naming rights partner for Elvery’s McHale Park in Castlebar.
The local Aurivo Co-Op is also on board as the sponsor of underage competitions through its Homeland Stores brand and of the Senior Football Championship under Connacht Gold. The Breaffy House Resort sponsors the Junior Football Championship.
Last month it was announced that Mayo GAA was to appoint a Chief Commercial Officer, putting them in line with Dublin and Wexford County Boards in recognising the importance of a dedicated resource to look after commercial partnerships.
Meath GAA is on the rise again with a return to Allianz League Division One secured and a trip to the 2019 Leinster Final booked. From a sponsorship perspective, the timing is good as this is the third of a three year deal with Devenish Nutrition as the county’s main partner.
The deal was signed ahead of the 2017 campaign and was reported at the time to be worth a six-figure sum. The Belfast based company is also the main backer of Horse Sport Ireland.
Prior to this Ray Coyle’s Tayto Park had been the shirt front sponsor since 2013.
Glanbia, Fairyhouse Steel, the local Seat dealership and Uniflu are also listed as sponsors by Meath GAA who are backing up advances on the pitch with plans to redevelop Tailteann Park in Navan.
Meath GAA, Ladies Football and Camogie have put in a bid for €8.3 Million from the Government’s Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund to do this.
Financial advisory firm Investec have been main sponsors of Monaghan GAA since 2009 and this is their 11th year.
They sponsor the Ladies Football team as well as the Men’s, as befitting one of the main sponsors of the 20×20 campaign.
Local water company Celtic Pure came on board as a secondary partner in 2018 taking a position on the back of the shirt.
The county has a well thought through and diverse group of companies backing different elements with 24 local or locally connected brands supporting everything from different grades and age groups through to golf classics, awards nights and the Monaghan Centre of Excellence.
When the GAA first introduced sponsorship on the front of county GAA shirts, Offaly secured the backing of Carrolls Meats. 28 years on and the brand is still there. Sporting fortunes may have ebbed and flowed over the time but Carroll’s have been a constant on the Faithful County livery.
Famously it was an Offaly club, Tullamore who first ‘won’ the right to wear the national colours before handing that honour onto the county team shortly after the Civil War.
In 2017 the County agreed on a ten-year naming rights deal for Bord na Móna O’Moore Park in Tullamore. The ground is owned by Tullamore GAA Club but they lease it to the county on a long term deal.
Earlier this year Offaly signed a partnership deal worth €18,000 with the local education and training board.
Roscommon has switched back this year to a more traditional brand on the shirts with Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore Property company taking the space.
Ballymore have been long term supporters of GAA across the county and for the past four years have been joint supporters with Ranger Pipelines. Both companies agreed to allow the front of shirt sponsorship to be given over to the promotion of the Club Rossie brand.
This commercial and fundraising arm of the Roscommon County Board has been successful since its establishment in 2014 in bringing a wide number of local businesses and individuals in to support GAA development across the county.
Sligo is one of the few counties to have different sponsors on board for their Senior Football and Hurling teams. International biopharmaceutical company Abbvie came on board for an initial three year’s with the county Football teams in 2015 and extended that deal by a further three years at the start of the current season.
The company has two manufacturing plants in the county and is a major employer.
The Senior Hurling team, who tasted success last year winning the Lory Meagher Cup, unveiled their new sponsorship arrangement at the start of the season with the local Clayton Hotel.
The county also has partnerships with IT Sligo, Connolly Group and Devenish Nutrition as well as a number of other local companies.
At the end of 2018 Tipperary GAA announced that they would be sponsored across Hurling and Football from Minor to Senior by Teneo. The global advisory firm is best known here for the work of the firm in Dublin where they advise across a large number of companies in terms of communications and are a key player in sports marketing and sponsorship.
The company was founded by Tipperary native and longtime private supporter of GAA in the County Declan Kelly.
Part of the sponsorship was also the creation of a Commercial Advisory Board aimed at creating long terms sustainable partnerships to aid the development of the GAA across one of its historic strongholds.
The Teneo deal is on a 12-month rolling basis but it is thought likely that the Advisory Board will continue regardless of whether the name is on the shirt or not.
Members of the Board include Kelly himself as well as Niall Quinn, Alan Quinlan, AIG General Manager in Ireland Declan O’Rourke, Louis Fitzgerald and Teneo’s Irish operation CEO Mick O’Keeffe.
Tipperary Ladies Football and Camogie have separate deals with Camida and Evros respectively.
Tyrone Fabrication came on board as sponsors in a two-year deal covering 2018 and 2019. They took over from fellow local firm McAleer and Rushe who had been on the jerseys for two years prior to that, but who stayed on as sponsors of the Tyrone Ladies Football and Camogie teams.
The company is based in Ballygawley and has been trading for 25 years.
“As avid GAA and Tyrone fans we are honoured, both on a personal and commercial level. We aim to build a strong and successful relationship with Tyrone GAA over the coming seasons,” said Director Antain McDermott at the time of their announcement as sponsors.
Getting to an All Ireland Final in year one was a major boost.
Tyrone GAA also lists Bank of Ireland, Deep RiverRock, LCC and O’Neill’s as its main partners.
Waterford brought local firm TQS Integration on board last year as the sponsor of all Waterford GAA men’s teams from U14 up to Senior. They replaced 3 who had adorned the shirts since 2010.
“This sponsorship I feel is an ideal opportunity for us to promote our company nationally and indeed internationally,” said Managing Director Maire Quilty launching the 2019 sponsorship at Waterford Institute of Technology in January.
“The involvement with the GAA has enhanced our connections with the International business community and has resulted in expanding our workforce engagement.”
Coach operator JJ Kavanagh, despite being based in neighbouring Kilkenny are sponsors of the Club Championships and are the official travel partner.
Intersport Elverys are the official retail partner and Waterford are one of the few counties to go outside of O’Neill’s with Azzurri Sport as their kit manufacturer.
Renault has been the primary sponsor of Westmeath GAA since 2014, providing financial support and cars from the range to management and players.
The local dealerships take the lead on the partnership hosting team announcements and events at their showrooms.
Ballygowan is also on board as Hydration partners, while local engineering company TEG took on the naming rights of TEG Cusack Park in 2016 on a five-year deal. The Radisson Blu Hotel in Athlone came on board last year as sponsors of the development teams.
The Ladies Football team who are the only ones going toe to toe with Dublin in the Leinster Senior Football Championship are sponsored by Mojo’s a nightclub in Mullingar.
Gain Feeds, part of the Glanbia Agribusiness family have been on board as the principal sponsor of Wexford GAA since 2014. The deal was originally brokered by racehorse trainer and Wexford hurling supporter Jim Bolger.
The alternate jersey which Wexford wore against Galway on Sunday was notable in incorporating imagery of the Wexford Pikeman, ironically drawing attention to the sponsor logo rather than detracting from it.
There is significant support at the secondary level as well with MacAuley Pharmacy Group coming on board with €100,000 worth of support for a Wellness programme being rolled out across clubs throughout the county in 2019.
Wexford took on the challenge of being more commercial last year with the appointment of Éanna Martin as Commercial Manager. Outside of Tomás Quinn at Dublin GAA that level of recognition for the importance of the commercial backing in terms of development within the county has yet to be fully recognised but as Wexford’s revenues grow that may well change.
Anthony Neville Homes are on board as sponsors of the development set up, while cloud computing company Innovate has attached their name to Wexford Park stadium. Sport for Business member TOP is another among the 23 commercial partners listed by Wexford.
Definitely, a county moving in the right direction off the field of play.
In February of 2019, Wicklow GAA signed a new three-year partnership with Renault Group Ireland and Joe Mallon Motor Group. The sponsorship includes front of shirt branding for the Wicklow Men’s Senior Football Team and naming rights on the Wicklow Club Championship.
“We have enjoyed many years of great partnership with the Wicklow County Board sponsoring the Wicklow Senior Championships, and now we look forward to supporting John Evans and the Wicklow Senior Football panel well into the future,” said Patrick Magee, Country Operations Director for Renault Ireland at the time.
The county also lists a total of 14 other commercial supporters including the Arklow Bay Hotel, the Wicklow people newspaper, O’Neill’s and e-frontiers.