Round 7: GAA and the Law – Team Sponsorship

2nd April 2015

It is almost 20 years ago since teams openly began to display sponsors. Whoever had heard of Kerstan Hunik before they appeared on the Down County Jersey?

The introduction of team sponsorship ushered in a whole new era, which to many younger GAA fans seems to be the norm.

For the first 110 years of the association, there was no sponsorship allowed on team jerseys. All of the sudden, partnerships started to spring up.

We now immediately recognise a Kerry jersey with the Kerry Group. When we think of Clare, we think of Pat O’Donnell. When you think of Galway, you think of Tommy Varden but this is to do a disservice to the current sponsor, Supermacs.

In our own county, we began with Genfitt, then Stauntons, then Stauntons Intersport and now one of the most popular GAA Jerseys across the world is the Elverys red and green.

The law of sponsorship of teams is quite straight forward, but never the less, is hidden from view to regular supporters.

Taking it from the county teams down, all of the aforementioned sponsors provide large sums of money to have their names printed on the front of Jerseys. We have not yet reached the types of figures that they speak of the English soccer. Chevrolet has reportedly paid €594,000,000 for a ten year contract with Manchester United. The full details of sponsorship contracts always remain private between the parties. For commercial sensitive reasons, a sponsor generally does not disclose what financial package they are putting together in order to have their name on the front of a jersey.

It is widely reported that the most lucrative sponsorship contract in the country is that between AIG and the Dublin County Board. This is reported, but unconfirmed, to be €2m per year.

At that inter-county level, there is a commercial negotiation between the county board and its representatives and the intended sponsor. This negotiation seeks to try and put a value on what worth it is to have a name on a jersey. The space on a Dublin County Jersey is quite likely to be more valuable than the space on a Carlow jersey. This is not to in any way belittle Carlow but it is fair to say that there are more Dublin jerseys sold than Carlow jerseys, which in turn then leads the sponsors to pay the extra money.

Any commercial contracts that are agreed between sponsors and county boards provide exclusively of the name. The sponsor is also entitled to have publicity surrounding their name on the jersey, such as television, radio, print and other media advertising. Generally speaking also, the players associated with the team will have commitments to attending at launches or events held by the sponsor. We know in our own county that Elverys enlisted many of the senior footballers to attend at the recent launch of the new county jersey in their stores.

The situation, therefore, at county level is pretty straight forward as described. When you drill down, however, into clubs the same principals apply but you are not talking about the same types of figures or even perhaps the passing of money at all.

Sponsorship can also take the form of non-money funding. Such examples are as follows:

1. A builders providers may sponsor a team and in doing so, provide building supplies for construction of a club house at cost.
2. A supermarket may sponsor a local team and provide refreshments on an on-going basis.
3. A transport company can sponsor a team and provide transport for the term and supporters.

The examples, therefore, are wide ranging. The idea of sponsorship, however, is that a club or a team receives something. In turn then for that something they bargain or contract with the supplier to provide a platform for the supplier to advertise their product or their service. At the very bottom of the sponsorship chain then, you can have a local parish team being sponsored by a local shop or pub on the basis that a set of jerseys are brought. This is what we normally see in local parishes and what we have come to know, particularly in rural Ireland.

As sponsorship effectively is a contract between one party and another, the relationship no matter how big or small centres around a sponsor wanting a profile or some publicity and the team being able to provide it.

The value of the sponsorship depends on the profile of the team and the exposure that they get.

In concluding, our own County sponsor, Elverys, have probably received more “bang for their buck” amongst any county sponsors. We are already seeing on social media celebrities holding up Mayo jerseys with the “Mayo4Sam 2015” banner with Elverys in the same shot. In the normal course, it would cost Elverys a sizeable amount of money to have Russell Crowe, Bruce Springsteen or Chris O’Dowd or some other international stars to hold a Mayo jersey. Given the enthusiasm of Mayo fans, however, Elverys are benefiting from this success and all as a result of their initial sponsorship with the County Board.