Originally published, March 26th 2013
The GAA Annual Congress took place over the weekend in Derry and has produced a number of changes to how the games are played, as well as how sponsors can interact with teams.
A new Black Card is intended to eliminate cynical fouling while the introduction of an advantage rule will also help keep things moving on the field of play.
The introduction of hawkeye technology may bring to an end some of the more heated discussion after matches but more importantly may offer an additional opportunity for subtle commercial sponsorship of action replays. Rugby already has a TV judge, as does NFL. Soccer will introduce goal-line technology as well but perhaps the most innovative sport in recent years has been tennis.
There is a sense of drama as line calls are queried and the technology replayed on TV and before the live crowd. Where there is drama and interest there is a potential for commercial input and Rolex have done well in claiming this space for themselves.
Of greatest commercial interest from Congress was the overwhelming acceptance of secondary sponsorships appearing on inter-county shirts.
Secondary is something of a misnomer as there are already four brands featured on all shirts with the main commercial sponsor, the county crest, the GAA logo and the kit manufacturer.
Fans accept these and in many cases are likely to buy a new jersey when the sponsor changes so as to keep up to date on the stands and in the school playgrounds.
Multiple sponsored kit is nothing new with Formula One the most obvious example of different brands living side by side. Soccer is similar with second-tier sponsors carried on the back of shirts in many leagues.
A challenge now for the GAA will be whether Championship sponsors will seek to be accommodated on county shirts in the same way as Barclay’s is in the Premier League of English soccer and RaboDirect is on the sleeve of teams competing in Rugby’s Pro 12.
The multi sponsor model may remove this for practical reasons but the crowding of the marketplace will need to be managed with care.
Dublin GAA will likely present the first example of multi-branded shirts next season as Vodafone steps away from its role as a primary sponsor but will continue a relationship.
It may be that headline deals are not at such a high level as they were but that overall commercial income is increased through spreading the load across different brands.
Ultimately this will be a positive as the value of association is seen more in how it enables brands to engage with fans at different levels other than the obvious visual stimulus of a front of jersey deal.