Certainly, those who follow sport, especially professional sport, can plainly see the influence and impact that sponsorship has on the overall quality of the teams and events. From Mega events such as the FIFA World Cup to the Olympic Games – the games have reached a new standard due to increased sponsorship. Similarly, sports such as the Football (soccer), Cricket, and Rugby Union have all seen their programs improve in quality thanks to increased sponsorship. Today, sports and competitions are completely unrecognizable compared to over 30 years ago. Does sponsorship then have the same effect at the amateur sport level? I believe it certainly does and this article will explain and highlight why amateur organizations need to embrace the idea of using sponsorship to improve the quality of their events and the need to offer positive outcomes for the sponsor.
A sport that many people may not have heard off is Gaelic Sports. Gaelic sports encompass Gaelic football, hurling, and camogie and are historically traditional Irish sports. Gaelic football is a sport where you can use your hands and feet to play the ball and score both over the crossbar and under the crossbar. Hurling and camogie is similar to field hockey and lacrosse and likewise you can score over and under the crossbar. These sports are played in over five continents and in Asia; the Asian County Board (ACB), of which I am the chairperson, organizes it. We have several tournaments annually throughout the region but our main event is the Asian Gaelic Games (AGG), where over 700 people attend to play sport. The event has become extremely expensive to run and organize and as such several years ago the ACB initiated a sponsorship plan to entice “western based” companies to invest and promote their companies through sport in Asia.
Opening ceremony of the 21st FEXCO 2016 Asian Gaelic Games (Photo credit to Eoin Murphy)
Irish Ambassador to China Paul Kavanagh speaking at the opening ceremony.
The ACB targeted companies that were trying to gain a footprint or expand their front print within Asia and the ACB eventually secured support from two large Irish based firms that are globally expanding. FEXCO (which is a FEXCO is an Irish-based financial services company focusing on bureau de change and payment card services.), First Derivatives (is a leading provider of products and consulting services to some of the world’s largest finance, technology and energy institutions) and one Asian based global company, MFE Formwork (a world leader in construction and aluminum technology). These companies have been involved with the AGG for the past five years with FEXCO being the title sponsors and First Derivatives and MFE Formwork both partner sponsors. Thanks to their support our games have risen to a new level of promotion, facilities, and competition.
In relation to promotion, having these major sponsors has allowed the ACB to engage in a more aggressive public relations plan and to be able to attract high level politicians and athletes to promote the events in Ireland and in Asia. For example, at this years launch of the AGG the ACB had the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland and some of the top athletes in GAA attend the launch and the press from the event garnered some major awareness of the GAA in Asia and towards the ACB sponsors. Additionally, at the games this year, there were several Chinese news outlets and they were all interested in the sport and the sponsors of the event. Finally, in relation to promotions, having the finaincal backing of the sponsors has given the ACB some freedom in hiring professional consultants and media (such as Jerome Quinn from Quinn Media in Ireland). Jerome is a well-respected media personality and has the heartbeat of the GAA community – having him and his company at the games has given the games a much higher profile in Ireland and overseas.
Pictured are Kerry Footballer Killian Young and Tipperary hurler John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer with H.E. Dr. Yue Xiaoyong, Chinese Ambassador to Ireland at the launch of the 21st FEXCO 2016 Asian Gaelic Games
A second benefit to having major sponsors such as FEXCO is that it as allowed us to rent high quality facilities for the AGG. Previous facilities have been good but as the event grew and teams expanded, it needed facilities that could not only cater to participants but also spectators and VIP’s from across Asia and Ireland. Whether the games are played in China to Indonesia to Japan, what is needed is high class facilities and over the past several years the facilities have improved immensely due to the opportunity given to the ACB by increased sponsorship. Such improved facilities not only increase the opportunity for promotion but also entices more teams to enter.
Finally, the sponsorship of FEXCO, First Derivatives, and MFE Formwork has also allowed the ACB to improve its media footprint by redesigning social media to maintain a connection with existing clubs and also to entice other countries to start new clubs. Over the past few years the ACB has seen clubs emerge from Malaysia, Mynamar and older clubs become more sustainable. All this is due in part because of the presence of GAA in the media and excitement that it brings to the participants. The sponsorship from the companies allows the ACB to attract and support the clubs through financial and educational support.
In conclusion, amateur sporting events happen everyday in every country around the world but do you hear about them or do they have the ability to attract high-level politicians or athletes. Most likely not due to the structural and financial limitations on promoting and developing the event, therefore it is imperative for amateur events (large or small) to develop a plan on attracting sponsorship. The Asian County Board put together an attractive platform for potential sponsors and targeted the needs of those companies. In the end it was a win/win situation for those companies. The ACB has now taken its premier tournament to new levels and the major sponsors have all gained or improved their footprints with Asian Business.
ⓒCredit Jerome Quinn (Quinn Media)
Eoin Joseph Trolan
한국외국어대학교 국제스포츠레저학부 교수