The brand has been the main sponsor of Irish football since 2011. They renewed their current deal ahead of Euro 2016 in a deal which was worth €8.9 million at the time.
There was also the immense promotional value of having a service that was so tapped into the digital world and with the ability to reach a huge section of the population.
When Three took over O2 in 2014 they inherited the sponsorship of Irish Rugby and the two teams and bodies were linked for a period of two years.
The Rugby partnership ended at the conclusion of the 2016 Six Nations, having been in place through the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Irish Rugby announced Vodafone as the replacement sponsor in August 2016 and that partnership has gone from strength to strength.
The announcement of Three’s ending the partnership with the FAI and with Irish sport came in a statement from Chief Commercial officer Elaine Carey this afternoon.
“Three has been a supporter of Irish football for 10 years with €30m invested in the game through our sponsorship fee and activations.”
“Three has made the decision not to renew its sponsorship of Irish football when the current contract comes to an end at the end of July 2020.”
“Having recently reviewed our full sponsorship portfolio, we have decided to consolidate our sponsorship investment in the area of music.”
“At Three, we are entirely focussed on supporting the Irish Men’s team through what we hope will be an exciting and successful qualification for the UEFA European Football Championship and the Irish Women’s team in their qualification journey for the UEFA Women’s European Championship.”
“We also wish the Irish teams at every level the very best in the future.”
The FAI followed up the statement by thanking Three for their “immense contribution to Irish football over the last ten years.”
“The Board and the commercial team here at the FAI would like to thank Three Chief Executive Robert Finnegan and his colleagues for their support of Irish football,” said FAI President Donal Conway.
“In their ten years as proud backers of Irish football they have been Ireland’s number one supporter and we will always be grateful to them for their financial and personal support.”
“We look forward to a successful eight months ahead with Three on board as we countdown to the EURO Play-Offs in March and the UEFA EURO 2020 games in Dublin next summer.”
The search now gets underway for a replacement but with budgets largely set for 2020 and a significant degree of uncertainty around the future leadership of the Association, there will be no immediate replacement.
The current line up of FAI sponsors includes some major players who would have the capacity to take on a deal of this size. They include Aviva SSE Airtricity and Nissan, the last of whom are heavily invested in the sport by being sponsors of the UEFA Champions League though that is from a global budget.
They came on board this year as Official Vehicle Partner.
The English FA signed a €50 million five year deal with BT one year after their long term partnership with Vauxhall came to an end.
BT also replaced Vauxhall with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FA’s.
Around the world beer, banks, airlines and mobile phone companies are the main international sponsors, as well as the kit manufacturers who reap an immediate dividend from shirt sales.
Because of FIFA restrictions, international teams do not wear branded shirts when playing.
Three’s relationship was based around branding at the Aviva Stadium, on ticketing, through use of players and the sport in advertising and content and through the creation of experiences for customers.
The value of football sponsorships around the world continues to rise though the audience for the Republic of Ireland would be less than for an average Premier League club.
It will now, over time, be the job of Mark Russell, the FAI’s experienced Commercial director and his team to craft a compelling story around what has always been and can be one of Ireland’s biggest sponsorship deals.
Rob Hartnett of Sport for Business was on Game On on 2FM last night to discuss Three’s exit from their ten-year partnership with the FAI.
Listen back to the show here from 50 minutes as rob talked about the detail and the repercussions of the news with Marie Crowe, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ruby Walsh.
Image Credit: Three and FAI