Dublin’s Swagger On and Off the Pitch

Our Sunday column in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post newspaper looked at how Dublin’s preparation off the field of play matched up in every way with the meticulous detail that goes into the match performance.

Dublin will take to the pitch in Croke Park this afternoon with swagger, just as if they owned the place.  It’s what they always do, it’s why Dublin fans love them so much, it’s why most of the rest of the country will be cheering for Mayo.

The last time the Boys in Blue won three in a row was in 1923 but in the modern era, all the talk is of how dominant they are and how so much of that is down to having more money than any other county.

It’s a perception based on fact.  Dublin GAA gets more from the central coffers of the GAA than any other county, by some margin.  Payments made for team expenses were less than those paid out to Clare and Waterford but at 156,000 they are more than all other counties.  They get more towards games development than anybody else

They get more towards games development than anybody else but then again they are catering for a population that makes up 20 percent of the population, using 13 percent of the national budget.  It may be an inconvenient truth but Dublin GAA is actually among the most efficient counties when it comes to stretching the resource they are given, and which Dublin fans might argue they pay for through filling Croke Park time and time again.

When it comes to sponsorship they do stand out as being the County that derives the greatest income from commercial partnerships.  A comparison is often made between the five-year, €4 million sponsorship with AIG – an American Multi-National insurance giant – and the €30,000 or so that Leitrim can wrestle from a local hotel group.

Money always finds its way to the place it will get the best return though and in terms of return, Dublin’s commercial team led by Tomás Quinn are every bit as successful as the 26 man match panel led by Jim Gavin.

Speaking to Sport for Business this week AIG Sponsorship Manager John Gillick reeled off the measurements that had been positively impacted by their association after four years.

“Key areas where it has benefited AIG have been brand and product awareness; business inquiries; sales and retention; trust and credibility scores; employee engagement and retention; B2B relationships and corporate hospitality; social media footprint growth and around CSR initiatives like our Heroes campaign,” he said with a cool detachment but a laser focus on results.

How many other counties would or could begin to base their sponsor pitch around such a wide variety of variables?  Some for sure but none at the same level of sheer numbers.

But Dublin’s strength lies just as much in its second tier of commercial partners.  Just like it’s bench in the Hogan Stand this afternoon.

O’Neill’s sell more Dublin jerseys than any other replica shirt.  They probably sell even more than might be expected through Lifestyle Sports.  If Con O’Callaghan scores a crucial goal it might be because his compression gear by Skins was tailor made.  Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs could be inch perfect because his nutrition preparation was precisely delivered by Ros, Linwoods and the Gourmet Food Parlour.  When Brian Fenton is still running hard on 66 minutes it will be down to the right hydration from Ballygowan or Energise Sport When the RTÉ cameras go to the after party it will be to the Gibson Hotel and when Bernard Brogan walks into the banquet with his beautiful wife on his arm her hand will likely be resting on a suit by Jack Jones.  Even after the lights have faded and the players go on their holiday they will drive to the airport in Subaru cars before boarding Aer Lingus flights to wherever.

That’s twelve blue-chip brands in support of AIG in support of Dublin GAA.  It is a powerhouse of a commercial operation that would match any team in the Premier League or the NFL.

And yet it is an approach that is worn lightly around the county.

John Costelloe’s Annual report for Dublin’s last year of 2016 ran to a printer bursting 29,391 words.  187 of them were devoted to the subject of sponsorship, less than to the performance of Dublin teams in the U14 Féile competitions or to discussion of the importance of developing social capital among Dublin’s many different communities.

There is a sense that Dublin are unstoppable. In sport that is the greatest fallacy of them all.  It’s well known that Mayo have not won an All Ireland since 1951, less so that they had won that last title back to back and would have expected to be going for their own three in a row in 1952.  In fact they didn’t get back to a final for another 38 years.  The great Kerry team of the 70’s and 80’s won seven titles in nine years then didn’t make a final for another eleven years after that.

Like happiness, money cannot buy success. It helps but there are no guarantees.  Dublin’s commercial strength today is as well prepared and as meticulously executed as the team that it backs up.  But today is just another day, just another game.  May the best team win, regardless of their riches.


PwC, the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association are among the more than 220 organisations that play an active part of the Sport for Business community.  

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 Image Credit Inpho James Crombie

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