Patrick Nally says it is time for fresh thinking on sport sponsorship

Co-founder of pioneering company West Nally will speak at the Irish Sponsorship Summit

Credited with inventing the multipartner sponsorship model for big sporting events in the 1970s, Patrick Nally is the first to say that it is time for "fresh thinking" on how sport sponsorship works.

He cites problems ranging from the political unrest that circles many flagship sporting events – usually the product of economic and social inequalities in the host countries – to concerns about obesity rates and legacies that amount to little more than white elephant stadiums.

“Where do we go from here?” is the question he will discuss at the 2015 Irish Sponsorship Summit at Croke Park on February 26th.

Fifa's decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is just the latest example of a tendency in the industry to "pretend everything is wonderful and perfect", says Nally. Labour rights "weren't even a consideration" in the bidding requirements, he notes.


Sponsors frequently become the target of the dissenting voices, and yet there is “very little” that sponsors can do to influence the running of a big event “except perhaps walk away from the property”, Nally says. “They’re not involved at the centre, whereas once upon a time they were.”

There should be "another entity", perhaps under the umbrella of UN agency Unesco, to consider the social and political ramifications of sporting body decisions, he argues.

“They have become so big and so strong, there needs to be a two-tier structure.”

As the co-founder in 1970 of the company West Nally, he remembers when the industry "wasn't an industry", when there were few legal structures in place for sport sponsorships and when sport itself often "wasn't organised" as a business. Organisations such as Fifa and the Interational Olympic Committee were "virtually bankrupt" then.

The problem now is that these organisations haven’t kept pace with the world around them. “They’ve become insular,” he says. “And yet the world around them has changed.”

Life is “too transparent” to just carry on as before.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics