The Olympic Federation of Ireland last week announced the coming on board of FBD Insurance as the first commercial partner in the new era of the organisation.
In the first of two key interviews with the players involved in the deal, we spoke to Olympic Federation CEO Peter Sherrard about what it will mean for Olympic sport among other issues.
How important, after all the change, has it been to secure a first commercial partner?
Really important. Now I have only been in the job five months and much of the work that went into making this possible was undertaken before I joined.
The work of the Executive Committee in making sure that the Governance piece was done properly and that we got back to the point where it was the athletes that were placed first, was time-consuming but had to be done in the right way and for the right outcome.
This is the next stage, having a brand of such stature as FBD looking us in the eye and believing that we are a good way for them to invest in terms of money and reputation is something that we do not take lightly.
It is important from the point of view of what we can do to support our athletes but also in us becoming an important contributor to the overall sporting economy. 25 percent of our funding comes from Sport Ireland but it is an important aim for us to achieve financial independence.
The partnership will be very community based, how will that work in reality?
People who get to the top of their sport and who represent Ireland at the Olympics are very accessible. They have grown up within their communities and the people that have helped them, seen them running past their window and growing in their midst feel a real connection.
Then when they make it to the pinnacle the whole country gets behind them so there is a great double value at local and national level which FBD have identified and really bought into.
What will the financial benefit allow you to do?
Having the support of a sponsor enables us to progressively remove the barriers which many of our athletes face. They can be economic, they can be time-based, they can be emotional.
We want to make sure that athletes not only have the physical talent but also the surrounding infrastructure which enables them to achieve their full potential.
They are doing us proud from a community perspective and can bring the country to a standstill with all the positive factors that generates.
This summer of rare achievement was important in raising the profile of sports beyond the big three. It was a factor in them saying yes, how timely was that success?
It couldn’t have happened at a better time. We were talking to FBD before the run of success but we would not underestimate the importance.
Olympic Sport can sometimes be seen as a sleeping giant and that can be difficult to sell to a sponsor. This summer showed that when it comes right there is a real magic about the way sport connects.
I believe FBD would have come across regardless but there is no doubt that all the wins from Hockey and Gymnastics to athletics and rowing came at a pretty good time and have given us a higher platform in terms of our approach to Tokyo 2020.
It is not just about putting a badge on it. They see staff engagement and getting their teams really bought into the deal is important.
We have our athlete ambassadors and they can inspire staff and the whole organisation to really want to get behind them and in many ways become ambassadors themselves as well.
How much is the deal worth?
Well if you look at national sponsorships and the dominance of certain sports you understand there is a benchmark value to deals like this.
Olympic Sport may not yet have the broad-based appeal of a rugby or soccer team but we have a lot of unique elements and the value of the deal reflects that.
Will we be seeing other commercial partnerships come on board?
The past two years were tough and when I came in there were no commercial partnerships in place. That’s the way it was and it has given us a blank canvas.
It was important to ensure that the structures are right so that we can both gain the most and also deliver as much as we can to partners.
We are having a number of conversations now about one other partner coming in at the same level as FBD and one kit partner as well.
Beneath that there will be a number of supplier and smaller partnerships.
The feeling in the market has been very positive. The new board under Sarah Keane is seen to be in the right place and is allowing us to open up discussions that will lead to more positive announcements in the not too distant future.
Join us in the coming days when we will have an in depth interview with Fiona Muldoon, CEO of FBD Insurance on why they see the Olympic Federation as a winner for them.
Sport for Business will host Partners ’19 in April of next year, a special half-day conference highlighting the world of sponsorship in sport and including practical sessions on how sporting bodies can upskill to attract interest from the corporate sector. If you are interested to know more email us today quoting Partners 2019 in the subject line.
Image Credit: Morgan Treacy, Inpho.ie