Sport GAA

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Martin Breheny: 'Supermac's v Galway - the chips are down in bizarre row'

Analysis

Supermac’s founder and CEO Pat McDonagh and his wife Una with Galway captain David Burke after the 2017 League final win over Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Supermac’s founder and CEO Pat McDonagh and his wife Una with Galway captain David Burke after the 2017 League final win over Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Even in a sporting world where tales of the unexpected continue to emerge on virtually a daily basis, the curious case of Supermac's v Galway GAA is guaranteed a special chapter of its own.

It's a fascinating story involving the second biggest county in the country, complete with more factions than the British Conservative party, and fast food burgher, Pat McDonagh, founder and owner of Supermac's, who have sponsored various Galway teams for a long time.

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The backing now extends across football, hurling, camogie and ladies football, hundreds of prime performers all advertising food which certainly wouldn't be found on their diet sheets.

There's an unmistakeable irony there, one which has left many Galway people uncomfortable. Still, business is business.

Brand

Galway GAA needed a sponsor and Supermac's saw the county teams as an ideal vehicle to drive the brand name ever deeper into the public consciousness.

Apart from the obvious contradictions of a fast food outfit sponsoring top sportspeople, it looked like the ideal partnership between a thriving company founded and owned by a Galway man and a county board which oversees so many high-profile teams.

Galway GAA were pleased to have the backing of such a successful company while Supermac's were on a double-win as sponsors of a county with a range of teams providing massive exposure.

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In addition, those teams play in front of very large crowds, offering Supermac's the opening to satisfy their hunger with an array of fast food options. Win-win for both sides.

It wasn't that simple. Rumours of friction between the parties have been circulating for some time before turning into fact on Tuesday when Supermac's tossed gallons of fat on the fire by issuing a 'where's our money gone' statement.

They explained that it arose "following questions by the general public and delegates in relation to Supermac's sponsorship of Galway GAA". They tossed out the figures (€1.26 million in direct payments and €341,000 in ancillary activities) over the past five seasons. They wanted "clarification" as to how the money was spent.

Quite why Supermac's didn't ask the county board directly rather than through their website wasn't explained, but then that's a mere aside in this bizarre showdown.

Is it the first time in sponsorship history that a company publicly challenged the organisation it was dealing with?

Sponsorship is supposed to be about the parties working in harmony, the cash recipients giddily extolling the virtues of the paymasters and the company issuing fluffy releases about how delighted there are with the link-up.

Instead, it's a public war between Supermac's, who are demanding answers and a county board who have expressed surprise at "this kind of unprecedented statement."

The board say they are happy to meet to meet Supermac's "to address their concerns and answer their questions as best we can".

No doubt, there are many Galway people who believe they should take a different approach, telling Supermac's that they are not prepared to accept being treated like a battered sausage.

The saga is deeply damaging to the Galway brand which, from a sponsorship viewpoint, is very valuable. Only Dublin and Cork (although not in recent years) would be deemed more attractive, yet Galway find themselves in the embarrassing situation of being publicly humiliated by their sponsors.

It's difficult to imagine AIG publicly demanding that Dublin CEO John Costello provide a breakdown of how their sponsorship money is spent.

And, if they did, one suspects the response would be an immediate binning of the deal.

Galway GAA appear to be prepared to ignore the humiliation, although this saga may still have some way to run.

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