In his first extensive interview since extending his Croke Park brief to the commercial department in September, McKenna revealed there are no plans to ditch the brewers as a backer of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship or alter the associate sponsorship model of the two marquee competitions. He believes it is “inevitable” the ban on alcohol sponsorship and branding in France will extend to all countries. However, McKenna dismissed speculation there is pressure on Guinness, whose current SHC deal has elapsed, as a GAA sponsor.
“No, I don’t think so. The whole of Diageo have been a very, very strong partner of the association. The advertising and marketing campaigns they have put behind hurling over the last 10 and more years have been extraordinary and very creative. “All of that has helped to lift the game to a very high level in the public’s imagination and mind’s share. They have invested heavy in that and we have seen the benefits no doubt.”
On the face of it, the ‘GAA’s Off the Booze, On the Ball’ initiative in January might appear to run against Guinness’ relationship with the organisation, but McKenna disagrees.
“Diageo themselves have a very strong responsible drinking code of ethics and I think the approach we are taking ourselves for our January campaign is very much an extension of that.”
However, McKenna conceded the end of Guinness’ association with the GAA will come because of EU laws.
“Looking at it from a wider perspective, which is from a European view, alcohol sponsorship and branding will eventually be taken off the market,” he said.
“We’ve seen that in France and other European countries and I think that’s inevitable.”