He told this newspaper: “Sky are going to bring additional value to the GAA’s entire commercial stock and while the sponsorship deals might not be happening now, they will increase in value because of Sky.”
Onside Sponsorship managing director John Trainor understands where O’Neill is coming from, but insists it’s subject to a number of factors.
“My view would be that it very much depends on the brand buying into the GAA. There is no debate that there will more eyeballs on the GAA internationally and the potential for multi-market penetration is huge.
“Etihad, for example, would see an added value in the Australian scenario [Channel 7 broadcasting all 45 live games] but even in the UK, they would see the appeal of that market opening too.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say brands are buying for an international footprint. They usually look for local connections rather than global ones. However, there is a real strong case that there will be a high level of media value because of the new TV rights deal.
“Liberty Insurance are obviously another global brand and what happened this week will be of value to them, but in our experience quite often brands make their decisions by judging the basis of the local market.
“But for brands who might have a UK focus as well as an Ireland one, there will be a barrier removed in the next round of sponsorship agreements.”
Trainor argues the platform of TV alone can boost Gaelic games’ popularity abroad but it won’t be enough to penetrate markets in isolation.
“The bigger picture for me is that this development will need to be plugged into a wider programme of growing the game abroad in order for the brand to see the true value. Visibility is important. Unless they bring life to the games internationally, there won’t be growth and that’s the piece of the story I think that will be told in three or four years’ time.
“Just 1% of Manchester United’s fanbase are in the UK the other 99% are around the world. The way they fuel it is by organising summer tours and making sure there’s an outreach programme to these markets. There’s a tangible connection that supports the TV dimension.
“I see that as being more of a challenge for county boards than anyone else. They need to look at how they grow the fanbase that is provoked by the TV element and how to capitalise on it.”
A vacancy arises in the GAA’s associate championship sponsorship stable for this summer’s campaign. Whatever about who that might be, Trainor sees the potential for global brands getting involved with the Association, but maybe not the ones that people might expect.
“The typical global brands that are thought of are the like of alcohol and soft drinks brands. We might see a proposition becoming more attractive for the non-obvious brands who will see the potential in the GAA to support, fulfil and deliver their requirements.
“Take the Volvo Ocean Race and Team Green Dragon that was ultimately fuelled by operations in China. You could envisage how the outreach and footprint of the GAA from TV in other markets could drive similar enterprises.”
As for what Sky Sports can bring to the table in terms of promoting Gaelic games, Trainor says it’s all about the “quality of the visual that is supplied, meaning camera angles and camera access”.
He continues: “You can envisage these guys will bring the game to the fans in a way that hasn’t been done before, through new lenses and that could be pretty significant. It’s all about major end quality. I’m not saying RTÉ haven’t already evolved well in regard of this and analytics but when the games are shared for All-Ireland semi-finals and finals they’ll probably want to show things from different angles and perspectives.”