Vodafone pull plug on All-Ireland sponsorship
THE GAA will have to go looking for a major new sponsor in the worst possible economic climate as three-year sponsors Vodafone have just informed them they are not renewing their All-Ireland senior football championship deal.
The news, ironically, coincides with today's announcement of this year's Vodafone All Star football nominees.
The telecommunications company has a separate sponsorship deal with the GAA that covers the All Stars and it is not yet clear if they want to continue with that.
However, they will definitely not be renewing their deal as one of the three main sponsors of the All-Ireland senior football championship.
After previously having just one title sponsor for each of their senior championships, the GAA switched to a trio of sponsors for both hurling and football three years ago.
Vodafone, Toyota and Ulster Bank came in as their main football championship backers, while Guinness, RTE and Etihad Airways made up the hurling package.
Toyota pulled out earlier this season, a year short of their original deal, but the GAA had plenty of prior notice and had already lined up a replacement in big retail chain Supervalu.
Vodafone's three-year deal officially ended last weekend with the conclusion of the All-Ireland final and the expectation was that the sponsorship would continue.
However, one marketing source with close GAA connections said last night that Vodafone's decision not to stay involved has not come as a major shock to the association and said that they would have been preparing for it.
"Vodafone's decision to sign up as Dublin GAA sponsors this year was a very strong indicator that this might happen," he said.
"In effect, the Dublin deal meant Vodafone were sponsoring virtually the same product twice, so the GAA will not be too surprised by this and will probably have been planning for this scenario."
However, no matter what prior notice they had, losing such a big sponsor, especially given the current economic climate, will still be a big commercial blow. There is already speculation that there will be a merger next year between the All Stars and the Opel-sponsored GPA player awards under one scheme, now that the players' union have been officially recognised by Croke Park.
2010 all star nominees. page 63