In 2008, AIG – having gambled so heavily on collateralised debt obligations – lost $99.2 billion.
Deemed ‘too big to fail’ (a classification that was only removed by US regulators in 2017), they were bailed out by the US government that September.
The impact on their sport-sponsorship portfolio was both inevitable and immediate.
By January of 2009, it was announced that their four-year, £56.5m deal with Manchester United would end.
As a price for the bail-out, the US government took a 78 per cent stake in AIG, meaning that, briefly, Manchester United were effectively being sponsored by the American taxpayers.
Also for the chop were stadium-advertising deals with New York’s two baseball franchises; the Yankees and the Mets, the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as its decade-long backing of the US Davis Cup team.
Call them spoil sports, but corporate boxes at sports events are more easily considered unnecessary expenditure when you owe your own government something in the ball park of a couple of hundred billion dollars.
Roll forward to January 1, 2013.
TV viewers of the traditional New Year’s Day NFL matches got first sighting of a new AIG advertisement, trumpeting triumphantly that it had repaid “everything, plus a profit of more than $22 billion” to government coffers.
All in, the final bill came to $205 billion but there was opportunity in the post-recession insurance market.
In Ireland, AIG – who had been trading mostly in the commercial insurance sector since 1977 – turned their hand to personalised products such as car insurance and health insurance. To do that, first they needed a commercial marketing budget and then a highly visible entity in which to sink it, one that could boost overnight awareness of the company and its new range of products.
Sports sponsorship remains a potent form of branding for companies of their size, particular those seeking wholesome, community association.
In late 2012, AIG took on the All Blacks on a five-year arrangement worth a reported €54m and, as it just so happened, Dublin had just finished a five-year deal with Vodafone.
In the middle of a frustrating search for a comparable replacement, AIG swung in from nowhere and plonked €4m down on the table in front of the Dubs for the next five years.
According to industry experts, sponsorships of this size and nature tend to have a lifespan of about six to seven years.
So while yesterday’s revelation that AIG will not be continuing their sponsorship is a significant blow, it will be noted that in the final tally, the arrangement was a mutually beneficial one.
At minimum, the company have put €8m directly into Dublin GAA over the past ten years. It’s hard to think the relationship wasn’t €8m worth of awareness, goodwill, and visibility to AIG.
The deal was also ground-breaking in that it included both ladies and camogie teams for the first time.
So there will be some surprise in the corridors of Parnell Park at AIG’s decision not to renew.
It had been expected that that another deal, with similar financial commitments, would be offered, although perhaps the writing was on the wall when AIG, to global level, discontinued its relationship with the All Blacks in 2021.
Dublin don’t – and won’t – lack for suitors.
In his annual report, Dublin GAA CEO John Costello listed AIG, O’Neills, Intersport Elverys, Britvic, Bytex and Peugeot as Dublin’s current sponsors. But there is no disputing that AIG were a snug fit, a low-maintenance backer, who did more than simply sign cheques at the start of the year.
Finding a new sponsor, one with the financial clout of an AIG, may be a case of casting out the rod and fishing for big catch in a shallow pool.