Irish Book Awards starts new chapter with hunt for sponsor
High-profile ceremony seeks replacement partner after Bord Gáis Energy bows out
Marian Keyes, who won Popular Fiction Book of the Year at the 2017 Irish Book Awards. The event is on the hunt for a new sponsor in its 13th year. Photograph: Alan Betson
Ireland’s largest literary event is searching for a new sponsor after Bord Gáis Energy turned the page on its eight-year association with the ceremony.
Irish Book Awards co-founder Alastair Giles said a six-figure sum was being sought for the sponsorship of the awards, “which has huge word of mouth”, and that it was already in talks with a number of companies.
The event has grown substantially since it first took place in 2006. In 2017, the ceremony was boosted by a move from a late Saturday to a 9.35pm Wednesday slot on RTÉ One, with an average audience of 250,000 watching as writers including Bernard Mac Laverty and Marian Keyes were among the prize-winners.
Thanks in part to a public voting process, the awards typically attract strong social media engagement in the months leading up to the ceremony itself.
“Bord Gáis Energy were very good sponsors. They activated the sponsorship brilliantly, which is the most important part of this process,” said Mr Giles.
Research commissioned from specialist sponsorship company Onside found that awareness of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards among consumers rose from 11 per cent in 2010 to 39 per cent by 2016.
“The Irish book trade is really collegiate and there’s a real warmth to the night,” said Maria Dickenson, managing director of Dubray Books and the new chairwoman of the Irish Book Awards.
“People have a lot of love for books and authors, and the nice thing about the awards is that they involve bookshops around the country. It is literally a shop floor.”
The awards are timed to coincide with the run-up to Christmas, the most important period of the year for book sales.
With the categories including awards for books aimed at children and young adults, there is a “a great demographic spread” of interest in the event, Ms Dickenson added. “I would be hopeful that there is a positive partnership here and that we will find the right one.”
Mr Giles, who is the director of UK publishing, film and television marketing agency Agile, said the Irish Book Awards was a “very broad church” designed as “affirmative action” for Irish writing.
He cited the recent addition of a short story award category to the awards as further evidence of how Irish literature was “punching above its weight”.