The GAA's great brand divide
As Dublin's blue bandwagon continues its funding drive, many counties are struggling to secure sponsorship deals
How the other half live. As Dublin footballers jetted out to sunny Florida and the idyllic Cayman Islands yesterday and the county signed up to a partnership with Aer Lingus as their official airline carrier, it emerged that up to eight counties currently have no commercial sponsor with the new GAA season just over one month away.
The newly crowned All-Ireland champions have been engaged in a fundraising drive that could eventually yield close to €250,000 between sales of their commemorative DVD, their book 'A Rare Auld Season' and the €1,000 they are charging for commercial visits with the Sam Maguire Cup and representatives of the team.
With companies like Aer Lingus keen to attach themselves to the blue bandwagon that has been picking up pace relentlessly since September, the Dublin pot is expected to have a carry-over that will help them to fund additional ventures in 2012.
No wonder the recent Strategic Report, entitled 'Unleashing the Blue Wave' proposed that Dublin should explore multi-sponsorship at national level, a concept that would allow counties to stitch on additional, albeit smaller logos, to their apparel.
But Down, Sligo, Louth, Roscommon, Carlow and Westmeath are all currently seeking new backers. Meath may also be in the market in the coming weeks if Comer Group decide not to continue, while Galway football will continue with the Cancer Care West logo on their shirt in 2012.
No money is paid for this link by the charity, but a mutual fundraising drive has paid dividends for both parties. It was developed after they failed to secure a sponsor earlier this year in the wake of Aer Arann's withdrawal.
A glance at the current arrangements show that only five county sponsors have links to the construction industry, a far cry from the boom days when sponsoring a county team was another badge of distinction for building giants.
Two are in Northern Ireland, Creagh Concrete in Antrim and Tracey Concrete in Fermanagh. Slate company Tegral are still with Kildare, plant machinery firm Pat O'Donnell are with Clare and timber processors Glennon Brothers are new Longford sponsors.
Three of the counties in the market for new sponsors have just ended links with hotels, who are opting not to renew their involvement, another sign of a very challenging economic climate.
Loyalty remains a big factor in many cases with players like Tegral, Kerry Group, Avonmore (Kilkenny), Pat O'Donnell and Supermacs (Galway) all involved for the best part of two decades.
A majority of county boards contacted admitted that they have had to take a significant funding hit over the last three to four years.
In some cases that hit has been in excess of 50pc, but average is more likely to be between 30 and 50pc.
Some counties have privately admitted that they have not yet been paid for 2011 sponsorship agreements. Most counties can point to annual revenue from their main sponsor of between €50,000 and €100,000.
But as some of the smaller counties struggle, the market for bigger counties remains reasonably buoyant.
Vodafone's sponsorship of Dublin over six years is the blue-chip arrangement that could nett close to €6m.
The inter-county sponsorship landscape...
Cork -- Enjoy one of the most lucrative sponsorships -- with O2 -- that there is in Gaelic games.
Clare -- Pat O'Donnell is Clare's long-serving benefactor and the plant machinery supplier will continue in 2012 with all teams.
Tipperary -- Skoda and Tipperary signed a three-year deal prior to the 2011 championship that was estimated to be worth in the region of €200,000.
Waterford -- Mobile phone providers '3' have been in situ for two years, and look set to continue into 2012.
Kerry -- No change. Kerry Group continue their long-standing relationship with the Kingdom.
Limerick -- Sporting Limerick is the name, but JP McManus is the sponsor and has been for some years now. The money is already in the bank for next year.
Dublin -- The best blue-chip sponsorship in the game. Vodafone began a six-year deal with Dublin for 2010 thought to be worth close to €1m per year.
Carlow -- Stone Developments have withdrawn leaving Carlow GAA searching for a main supporter.
Westmeath -- Kinnegad's Hilamar Hotel have withdrawn after several years and Westmeath are currently in the market.
Kilkenny -- Glanbia, through the Avonmore brand, have been long-term sponsors of Kilkenny and will continue to the end of 2012 at least.
Longford -- Timber processing company Glennon Brothers have taken over from Longford Arms as sponsor in the midlands county.
Laois -- MW Hire have been sponsors for three years and will continue for another two.
Meath -- Meath are currently trying to establish if Comer Group will continue beyond the current two-year deal which has expired.
Louth -- McCabe Builders' deal with Louth is at an end after five years and their finance committee are exploring their options.
Kildare -- Tegral have been Kildare sponsors since the rules were relaxed in 1991 to allow branding on jerseys and have committed in 2012, with a new jersey already launched.
Offaly -- Carrolls Cuisine remain Offaly's only ever GAA team sponsors.
Wicklow -- Brennan Hotels are entering the third year of three with Wicklow.
Wexford -- Wexford enjoy sponsorship from the sports equipment retailers Sportservers, who have committed for another year.
Cavan -- Kingspan remain loyal sponsors of the team and Breffni Park. The deal rolls over from year to year.
Down -- The withdrawal of Canal Court Hotel in Newry has left Down in the market.
Armagh -- Morgan Fuels have been sponsors of Armagh for a decade now and have recently added the Athletic Grounds to their portfolio.
Monaghan -- Bankers Investec are entering into the second year of a three-year deal.
Derry -- Negotiations with bookmaker chain Ladbrokes are continuing in the hope that a three-year deal can extend.
Tyrone -- Transport giants Target Express came in two years ago to replace Rocwell Water. That term has ended, but the expectation is that they will continue in 2012.
Fermanagh -- Tracey Concrete are one of the longest sponsors of an inter-county team in Gaelic games. Their current term has ended and is now under review.
Donegal -- Donegal Creameries continue to be backers of Donegal football.
Antrim -- Creagh Concrete are on board for another year. Beyond that is up for discussion.
Galway -- No commercial sponsor for the footballers, but Cancer Care West are partners for a second year after the departure of Aer Arann. The link has proved successful, however, with a fundraising measure netting substantial money for the Galway Football Board. Supermacs continue a long relationship with the hurlers.
Sligo -- Since sponsorship was introduced Clifford Electrical was a guaranteed backer in Sligo, but after 20 years that relationship is now over.
Mayo -- Elvery's remain a constant partner to Mayo football.
Roscommon -- Another county recently plunged into the chase for new backers after Siteserve withdrew from sponsorship ventures in 2012.
Leitrim -- Bush Hotel are expected to announce a one-year extension of their sponsorship next month.