Loyalty not part of sponsors' game
People always seem to be surprised when a well- known sports sponsor pulls out. The sponsor's name tends to be associated with the actual team, especially through the popularity of supporters wearing the team replica jersey.
In the context of the GAA, no sponsor has made more of an impact than Vodafone and we are all familiar with the sight of a sea of blue jerseys bearing their logo dominating the landscape of Hill 16 in recent summers.
Now apparently that particular symbol of summer will disappear and Dublin fans will have to dig deep yet again if their children are to be fashionable in 2014. By coincidence, O2 stopped their sponsorship of the Cork GAA team this year. It is often assumed by some GAA people that sponsorship is some sort of a favour to the sponsored team, like a gift from a long-lost uncle from America.
The reality, of course, is that all sponsorship is nothing more or less than a strictly business investment. The affiliation of the particular team being sponsored is little more than a convenient vehicle for the sponsor and they can change their financial decisions any time they choose.
This is what is happening with Vodafone and, if we assume that the annual cheque to Dublin GAA at Parnell Park was in the region of €750,000, it is clearly a major setback for Dublin. Other counties envied the sort of money that came to the Dubs, but there is no mystery to it.
Dublin is the team with by far the highest profile in the GAA, if not Irish sport overall. The team represents one quarter of the population of the island of Ireland and usually plays in the best stadium in the country. The national media is based in Dublin thereby ensuring that every item about the team is big news and every picture arising from that displays the Vodafone logo.
So in advertising terms, which is the rationale behind all sponsorship, Dublin GAA is miles ahead of all others. But the tendency of big-name sponsors is to change after a few years in order to diversify to other subjects and that's why Dublin will have to start all over again for next year.
With the recession, sponsorship in the GAA has declined drastically so it is unlikely that Dublin's new sponsor will match the generosity of Vodafone. But the Dublin brand name is still rock solid and, of course, winning the Sam Maguire in 2013 would copperfasten that.