The biggest new sports sponsorship deal of 2013 was the arrival of Liberty Insurance to the top table of GAA All Ireland sponsors. They took the place of Guinness alongside Etihad Airways and Centra as the headline partner of the All Ireland Championship and what a year it has been.
In this first of a three part series we look back on the ways in which each of the three has made their association with sport work best for them.
The defining theme of Liberty’s involvement with the GAA has been the crossover it has enabled and nurtured between the men’s game and the Women’s Camogie Championship which it also took over as the sole sponsor.
The coming together of codes has been a central focus of Liam O’Neill’s Presidency of the Association, as evidenced again by his notes in the programme for Sunday’s Football Championship semi-final, and the clearest and most beneficial manifestation of that has been the closer ties between the Hurling and Camogie Championships.
The decision was not an empty gesture on the part of Liberty who have given equal prominence to the two sports throughout the summer. It’s advertising campaigns on billboards and in media has featured a representative of both on an equal footing and that has been the case throughout.
Head of Marketing Annette ní Dhathlaio was a speaker at the Sport for Business Women’s Sport Conference in June and she spoke eloquently about the important additional community reach to be attained through a dual approach.
Liberty has a long relationship with sport and sportsmanship in its US base and a partnership with the Alan Kerins Project Charity match at Croke Park in the spring was a precursor to coming on board with the full sponsorship of the Championships.
The company has made a long term commitment to both and a five year deal will give room to build initiatives that will deliver for the business and be of real benefit to the sports.
An early sense of what was possible was the use of Croke Park and its pitch for family, staff and media days where management got to experience what the games are like and to build relationships with those who will be strong supporters along the road.
Liberty branding and use of the statue icon of the same name has added a touch on international glamour to hurling and camogie fixtures that have captured the imagination across the summer.
Dublin and Limerick’s ecstatic journey towards the Leinster and Munster titles brought hurling front and centre stage. The passing of the old order, even if only temporarily with the July exits of Kilkenny and Tipperary injected fresh enthusiasm into the sport and Liberty has been able to benefit by association.
In Camogie as well, Wexford’s dominance came to an end and Kilkenny will appear in their only senior All Ireland final of the year in the Women’s game for the first time since 2009.
Brand awareness and a sense of being part of what matters to communities across the country has been an important theme of the first year.
The community side has extended in the late summer and autumn to include a deal for all GAA clubs where a portion of any policies taken out through the club in home and motor insurance will be paid back directly to the club. There is also a free draw for anyone who requests a policy quote through which the club could win a grant of €10,000 to spend on development.
An indication of where the deal may go in year two and beyond might be divined through sister company Liberty Mutual’s deal in the UK where it insures nine top class cricket venues on favourable terms.
Building ties that bind the sport and partner should be a crucial element in the long term planning of any major deal and the indications are they Liberty and the GAA are already ahead of the curve.
“It has been an exciting, challenging and, so far, very rewarding few months,” said Ní Dhathlaoi in between preparations for Sunday’s first of two centrepiece weekends for the brand. “Of course, between the weather and the GAA sports, it has been an outstanding summer, we couldn’t have planned it better, and this is just the beginning.”