Guinness to be announced as new Pro12 sponsor
Product has had a long association with rugby including Ireland’s autumn international series
Guinness have been a long-time sponsor of the autumn international series. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Guinness have won the race to succeed Dutch online bank RaboDirect as the new title sponsors to rugby’s Pro12 league. An official announcement will be made on Thursday.
The iconic brand, owned by Diageo, is hugely prominent in the sport from both an Irish context and globally. Guinness is the title sponsor for Ireland’s annual November test series, consisting of three internationals, generally against Southern Hemisphere opposition, but not always as is the case later this year.
This autumn’s series sees South Africa, Georgia and Australia visit the Aviva stadium. Guinness, one of the IRFU’s blue chip sponsors, also boast a commercial affiliation to the British and Irish Lions, has been the official beer to several Rugby World Cups, the Six Nations Championship (2011) and a number of clubs in England.
They were title sponsors of the English Premiership (2005) rugby prior to Aviva and they are still the official beer sponsors to the tournament.
Guinness will be the third headline name on the Pro12 tournament in the last eight years following on from Magners (took over in May, 2006) and most recently RaboDirect (three seasons). The latter indicated last year that they would be stepping down at which point the hunt for a new sponsor began.
Turkish Airlines were known to be interested and for a long time considered a front runner - the well documented issues between the various constituents in reaching an accord for the new European Rugby Champions Cup wouldn’t have helped Celtic Rugby as they tried to secure a new sponsor - but Guinness have won the rights in a sport in which they boast an already considerable profile.
Signing Guinness as the title sponsor is a coup for the tournament organisers, coming on foot of a four-year television deal agreed with Sky Sports. The broadcaster will screen 33 matches live next season.
The tournament format is likely to be tweaked to accommodate its European sibling with the semi-finals and finals of the Guinness Pro12 likely to following directly after the 22-match league format concludes.
Celtic Rugby’s prescience in registering the domain name www.guinnesspro12.com offered an indicator to the sharp eyed but it is reasonable to assume during the negotiations that it was not the only prefix registered with the pro12.com tagged on.
The initial deal is reputed to be for two years with an option to extend.