Revenue cuts outside of top tier
As the recession shows few signs of abating, sponsors are increasingly hard to come by. SEÁN MORANreports
WITH THE sponsorship terrain increasingly difficult for counties, All-Ireland football champions Donegal are in the happy position of having competition for the space on their county jersey.
The county’s arrangement with Donegal Creameries – believed to have been worth up to €100,000 per annum when performance bonuses are computed – expired this year and whereas discussions on renewing the sponsorship will take place, there will also be other potential partners.
“The current agreement has expired,” according to Donegal chair PJ McGowan. “We’ll be meeting with Donegal Creameries but there are also a number of other interested parties.”
Being spoiled for choice isn’t however a common dilemma for counties. As the recession shows few signs of abating, sponsors are increasingly hard to come by.
Whereas the biggest counties, essentially Dublin and Cork, can command serious money from telecoms multinationals, many others have been badly affected by the economic downturn and especially the collapse of the building industry, which had been a mainstay of GAA sponsorships, national and local.
At present there are four counties without sponsorship: Louth, Kildare, Down and Tyrone. All are currently engaged in trying to secure a deal in time for next year. The latter three are high-profile counties with recent appearances in the All-Ireland semi-finals and in Tyrone’s case three titles and so will be expected to conclude deals.
Seán Óg McAteer is Down county secretary and he remains upbeat about what his county has to offer commercial partners. “The Canal Court [hotel, former sponsors] were very good to us and we still have a good relationship with them and use the facilities for county activities but I think we offer a good deal.
“We’re in an ideal location for any southern companies doing business in the north and vice versa.”
It’s more difficult for counties like Louth but the evidence elsewhere in the country is that sponsors are being found although the value of the sponsorships is under pressure and most counties confirmed that they have taken cuts in revenue under their most recent contracts.
Beyond the top tier of counties – those populous and successful enough to earn six-figure (and in Dublin’s case, closer to seven-figure) sums a year – the bulk of the deals fall in the region of €70,000 to €100,000 per annum but for some it can dip to €50,000 and less.
Given that landing cash-rich companies with big marketing budgets is now a struggle, some counties have had to be more creative about their partnerships.
Galway’s football committee for instance have teamed up with Cancer Care West, whose logo is on the jerseys, jointly to organise fund-raising events and whereas they would be interested in any offers from commercial concerns, the current arrangement has worked.
Similarly in Roscommon, local benefactors John and Lily Murphy stepped in to invest something in the community and in so doing raise awareness of another cause close to their hearts, the Hospice movement, the logo of which is displayed on the county jerseys.
Again both parties would be happy for the county to receive commercial overtures but in the meantime the current arrangement is helping to fund the county and also to assist a good cause.
Amidst all of the gloom it can be overlooked that the vast majority of counties, and probably by next season all of them, have or will have agreed sponsorship deals, which is arguably a robust performance in the current financial environment.
The fact that the GAA is hard-wired into so many local communities has big advantages for companies that want to hit a local market or spend those parts of the promotional budget set aside for community projects.
But for hard-pressed counties, it’s still a worrying time.