Wild Geese: Making the most of a sporting chance in UK
Chris O’Donoghue’s Mongoose sports sponsorship firm is targeting Ireland
Chris O’Donoghue of Mongoose Sports and Entertainment: “Irish charm wins people over in London as it can be quite a harsh, cut-throat city”
We all get our inspiration from somewhere and it was after watching the “Show me the money!” film Jerry Maguire that Waterford native Chris O’Donoghue was drawn to the idea of business in sports. He has since carved out a successful career which has now led to his London-based Mongoose Sports and Entertainment opening a new office in Ireland.
“Mongoose is a sponsorship consultancy. We do two things: we go to events, governing bodies, athletes and anyone who is looking for sponsorship and say we will help you secure sponsorship,” O’Donoghue says.
“On the other side, we represent brands. We consult with brands that are going into sponsorship. So we would advise how to negotiate on a deal, how to get the best deal and get the best set of rights or collateral, how to buy the best package and then, once that deal is done, we would help them leverage it to make sure they are getting the best out of it.
“The business is a joint venture with the listed Mission Marketing Group. It has multiple offices in Asia and we use people there because lots of people buying sponsorship these days are coming from Asia.
“We go and speak to people in Asia who are sponsoring things in Europe. It’s not trying to do work necessarily in Asia; we are doing work here but we’re trying to bring the money from Asia.”
Sports only covers about 65 per cent of the client list of the consultancy, which opened in 2013. Big entertainment companies Cirque Du Soleil and the West End’s Ambassador Theatre Group are among others on the books, as well as Alzheimer’s’s and cancer charities.
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Looking to develop his career, he landed an internship with Quintus (now IMG) organising seniors tennis tournaments. During his five years with the company, he realised his interests lay in selling sponsorship and, in particular, the sport of tennis.
That is hardly surprising as O’Donoghue grew up around the sport, with both his parents – Redmond O’Donoghue and Anthea Goodbody – playing for Ireland.
He moved on to work for the ATP and WTA, the global governing bodies for tennis, selling sponsorship for professional tennis around the world.
“I would travel for about 35 weeks of the year, go to all these glamorous tennis tournaments with glamorous men and women and sell sponsorship, and it was super,” O’Donoghue says.
“I would get chauffeur-driven to beautiful hotels in every city around the world. At the time I was in my 20s and it was great. I loved it but that only lasts so long so I decided to pack that in in 2010 and go to work for a sponsorship agency.”
He has found, however, that the accent has its advantages, breaking the ice as a talking point when cold-calling prospective clients. The Irish connection in the expat community has been very supportive to his business.
“London has a huge Irish expat community. I guess they were my first port of call for clients. We work with London Irish [rugby club], for example. That was one of my first calls,” he says.
“The expat community in London is very well connected because everyone seems to be quite successful. They are up for the craic and the Irish charm wins people over in London in what can be quite a harsh, cut-throat city.”
Mongoose has opened an Irish office in recent months after detecting growing maturity in the Irish sponsorship market.
The decision to locate in Cork rather than Dublin was down to the reasonable overheads. With Gaelic sports leading the sponsorship world in Ireland, followed closely by soccer and rugby, O’Donoghue was keen to get a slice of the action. He says the UK is “starting to take Ireland really seriously, so I wanted to get ahead of the bandwagon, leverage old contacts that I have here and make new contacts”.
Securing Glanbia’s Optimum Nutrition brand, Flahavan’s Oats and Greencore has proved a successful start to the Irish expansion and means we might see more of O’Donoghue.
“I don’t miss the weather because every time I am back here it does seem to rain. I miss the pubs and banter, mates and family obviously. I miss the rugby matches and I try and come back for a lot of them,” O’Donoghue says.
“I think we will definitely move back to Ireland at some point and I will commute because that is very easy these days. I will need to be based in London for the majority of my time because it is still the epicentre of the world whether you like it or loathe it – and there’s a lot of money to be made there.”