Peter McKenna unveils sweet deal for GAA

Need ‘to keep everything in perspective’ on endorsements, says commercial chief

It all sounded like child’s play compared to their defence of the Sky Sports deal as GAA commercial director Peter McKenna spoke of the need “to keep everything in perspective” when addressing their latest sponsorship agreement with a popular chocolate bar.

It will not have nearly as much financial clout as the Sky deal either, although the GAA’s decision to sell their logo to a special edition of the Cadbury Moro bar hasn’t gone unnoticed – particularly by those battling against childhood obesity. The reality, said McKenna, is that the GAA’s sponsorship money has to come from somewhere.

“We shouldn’t be so puritanical that the whole thought of having a treat, and celebrating, should be taken away,” he said. “Chocolate is a treat, and it should always been seen as such. I think there’s something nice about that. And Cadbury have been huge sponsors of our Under-21 football championship for 10 years. They’re fantastic, huge employers in Coolock, and the Moro bar is a bar that is only manufactured in Ireland.

GAA disbursements
"We could be facetious. But we distribute


€44 million throughout the organisation every year. If we were to get a grant for €44 million from elsewhere we would do things differently. But that’s unrealistic.

“So we have an obligation. We have €9 million this year that’s going to be spent on capital developments across the country. That’s pitches, floodlights, changing facilities and so forth. There’s another €10 million that goes into county offices and other developmental activity. There’s another €14 million being spent on game development and we have 100-odd development officers all over the country.

“That money is well spent, and you need good sponsors. And Cadbury have been great sponsors. So you have to keep everything in perspective. A bar of chocolate is a lovely treat. Let’s not lose sight of that.”

The Moro GAA bar is being produced to help recognise Cadbury’s 10th year as sponsors of the Under-21 football championship, and will only be sold in partnership with other GAA sponsors SuperValu and Centra.

Meanwhile, McKenna also confirmed that the GAA is working on additional details of the Sky deal, including a potential discount on subscription rates for GAA clubs around the country.

“What we’re trying to do is get them contact details with clubs, which Sky said they would want around the launch of the event. So that will happen.

“We only signed contracts last Tuesday. So the ink is still very fresh. We now get into a planning process, so that will start this week. We don’t have a whole lot of time until the first game. They will want access to grounds, that would be part and parcel of it, but they have a good competent team, so we wouldn’t see that as being an issue.”

McKenna also reiterated the GAA’s view that the Sky deal was motivated primarily by increasing access to viewers, worldwide. “Sky gives us access to 10 or 11 million households in the UK . . . In Australia, it’s with Channel 7 and they will bring that to about 87 per cent of the Australia households. And we’ll be on a joint venture with RTÉ for our streaming service, which will go worldwide across Europe, Africa, Asia and the US and Canada. So there won’t be any place where the GAA fan won’t be able to get access to our games.”

McKenna also suggested that the possibility of a broadcast deal with one of the American networks was a possibility when the next round of contracts are signed, in three years’ time. “We were very, very close with one, this time. But we felt we needed to develop the streaming service first. When you look at the demand, 40 per cent will come from the British market, 40 per cent from the US market, probably 7 per cent from the Australian market, and the rest over Europe and Asia. So the US market is very important to us. That’s why we targeted the joint venture, to develop that . . . When you look at any media deal, you have to do it in the context of how the landscape is changing. And that landscape is changing really, really quickly. So I don’t think anyone can predict where we’re going to be in five or 10 years time.”

Finally, McKenna confirmed that consultation with the Croke Park residents surrounding the Garth Brooks concerts in July was ongoing, although he’d little doubt all five concerts would go ahead as planned.

Resident concerns
"And I say that with as much confidence as I can. Obviously we've got to go and actually get a licence, and that is a gift of the city council. But by the time we make our submission, we'll have taken soundings from 27,000 households.

“So we are in a continuous dialogue with the local community. That whole process is being chaired by Kieran Mulvey. And he’s doing a great job. We’re working through the issues. We held a full-day event here with members of the local community here last Saturday. So what we put in front Dublin City Council will be a robust document that will take feelings from all over the area.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics