Cricket Ireland have begun the process of searching for a new title sponsor in time for next year’s World Cup after RSA Insurance confirmed their seven-year affiliation will conclude at the end of 2014. The multinational corporation have invested heavily in the sport in Ireland, both at international and domestic level, since 2008 but have decided against extending the current four-year deal which was signed in April 2012.
RSA’s decision, although forecasted, to end the partnership follows their annual review process and represents a significant blow to Cricket Ireland during a time in which the governing body are constantly hunting for supplementary revenue streams. “As with any key sponsorship, the partnership was reviewed at regular intervals including its alignment with our future brand promotion and community engagement intent,” A spokesperson for RSA said.
“In this context and following several years of providing lead supports to Irish cricket at all levels and receiving progressive brand benefit, we decided that we would not avail of the opportunity to further extend the sponsorship.”
The advanced notice of termination, however, has given Cricket Ireland sufficient time to engage with potential partners before the current contract concludes. It’s understood that discussions are at an advanced stage with several interested parties but Cricket Ireland officials are willing to bide their time in order to negotiate the best deal possible. It’s hoped the global exposure offered at the World Cup, which takes place in Australia/New Zealand in 2015, will enrich any deal while the prospect of Test cricket, should Ireland win the inaugural ICC Challenge, is seen as another weighty dealmaker.
“We believe that cricket has grown so much in terms of its general interest level, profile, participation numbers and performance that it should be a genuinely attractive property for a major brand to put its own stamp on cricket the way that RSA did,” Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland chief executive, said.
“We don’t kid ourselves that it will be easy, but we back ourselves because we believe in what we are selling. We have begun the search for a replacement and have been in contact with several parties. By no means are we across the line with any yet but that’s my job to ensure we get the best deal.”
RSA’s commitment to the sport’s development at grassroot and domestic level has been overt with their investment standing at a substantial seven-figure sum over the course of the seven-year affiliation. The ‘Get into Cricket’ scheme is just one of many projects to emerge from the partnership and has experienced unprecedented success.
As well as developing the game at rudimentary level, the funding has allowed Cricket Ireland to develop the player contract system, with twenty-four players now on the wage bill. As well as six ‘Category A’ contracts, additional two-year ‘Category B’ contracts - given to players who are playing in England - have been subsidised this year.
With the ICC’s funding to Associate nations nominal in comparison to their Full Member counterparts, the expanding wage bill and financing of other projects, such as the Interprovincial competition and national academy, relies heavily on commercial revenue. A financial profit of €117,300 for the past twelve months, announced by Cricket Ireland at their AGM this week, reflects a successful year both on and off the pitch but the procurement of a new multi-year primary sponsorship deal is essential to the long-term plans.
The package put forward to enquiring parties is boosted by several showcase events scheduled to take place in 2015. In addition to participation in a third World Cup in early 2015, Ireland are co-hosting, alongside Scotland, the World Twenty20 Qualifiers in August as well as welcoming old adversaries England for an One-Day International. Deutrom also hopes “to add one or two more major fixtures” to the busy itinerary.
Although ICC regulations prohibit sponsor’s logos to be shown on the front of playing apparel during global events, Deutrom believes they can offer an unique platform for brand publicity to any company wishing to become part of Irish cricket’s development. “We can offer a genuinely attractive alternative for brands prepared to look beyond our country’s traditional sports. Of course, we can’t guarantee continued success, but neither could we do so during RSA’s involvement, and yet we delivered time and time again.”
“Any marketing expert will tell you that money can’t buy for a brand what positive associations, driven by supporting a national team to punch above its weight on the world stage, can give a company, especially given that the sheer duration of cricket provides a lengthy and high-profile platform to its partners.”
There is, however, eight months remaining on RSA’s sponsorship deal, which includes title rights for next week’s ODI series against Sri Lanka at Clontarf. Following on from last September’s visit of England, during which 10,000 people packed into the new international ground at Malahide, and the successful series against Pakistan, another capacity crowd of upwards of 2,000 is expected for the two-game series.
The on-field prosperity - Ireland recorded an unprecedented Associate treble last year - and the staging of high-profile fixtures such as the forthcoming ODIs, have helped open up a host of new commercial opportunities for Cricket Ireland. As many as nine partners - in addition to the primary sponsor - have been welcomed on board in the past eighteen months and only last week, Newstalk were announced as the backer of the Interprovincial Series for 2014, which began yesterday.