Munster rugby chiefs are in talks with potential new sponsors ahead of the end of their relationship with Toyota next year.
Munster Rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald confirmed last night that they have begun testing the market, and have already met with several interested parties.
“As part of the sponsorship deal with Toyota, there is an opportunity for us now to go to the market and see who’s interested,” he said.
“There is more competition in the market than there was before and the next few months will be interesting.”
However, he dismissed as “speculation” weekend reports that Toyota would not be renewing its Munster sponsorship.
The deal ends in June next year and no decisions have been made yet, he said.
Toyota came on board as the principal sponsor of Munster Rugby in Jul 2004.
It included the title sponsorship of the senior teams competing in the Celtic League (now known as the RaboDirect Pro12), Heineken Cup, and British and Irish Cup, support for general marketing, communications, and advertising, as well as an incentive-based package related to the province’s progression through to the final stages of the Heineken Cup and Celtic League.
The company also ploughed up to €150,000 in to the club every year in “vehicle support”.
In 2010, the firm extended its sponsorship in a deal worth about €5.75m over three seasons. Once that deal ends next year, it is estimated that Toyota will have invested some €13m in Munster rugby.
It is one the longest sponsorship relationships of its kind in professional sport in Ireland and one of the most enduring in European rugby.
Mr Fitzgerald described the relationship over the years as “excellent” and said both parties were engaged in a detailed assessment of the sponsorship, and were exploring opportunities for the future.
“Until that’s done, no decision has been taken on an extension or otherwise,” he said.
Both parties are due to meet again in November but Mr Fitzgerald said that based on their analysis, sponsorship of Munster Rugby remained good value for money with the amount of television and newspaper exposure.
During the Toyota sponsorship, Munster won two Heineken Cups, one Celtic League title, and one Celtic Cup, as well as redeveloping Thomond Park.
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