Give us a brief overview of the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s approach to sponsorship and partnerships.
Very simply, we seek sponsors and partners who align with our values and mission to support Ireland’s finest athletes and, in turn, we create unique and meaningful connections for them throughout our athletes’ journeys, from grassroots to the biggest sporting stage of all.
Our sponsor and partner activations revolve around storytelling, inspiring others, engaging communities, families and fans, and championing diversity. Ultimately, our sponsorship model aims to enable high performance whilst celebrating our best athletes and what it means to be an Olympian.
What approach differentiates you from other rights holders and makes your sponsorship offering unique?
Team Ireland is a brand of 1,000 stories and we are very much the modern face of Ireland. Within the Team Ireland family there is a sport for everyone, no matter your age or background; at any point in time, athletes, teams and coaches from all over Ireland are training for or dreaming of an Olympics.
We believe everyone knows and understands the Olympics; Olympic brand recognition is almost instant and therefore something to really leverage. The Games and our teams are an amazing creative platform for marketers and sponsorship specialists to activate and I believe our sponsors and partners have the opportunity to go beyond a conventional sponsorship by fostering deeper connections with communities all over Ireland.
We also pride ourselves on being able to listen to our partners and build programmes and opportunity around them, wherever they wish to activate or share their voice – so we go beyond a traditional rights holder and that’s very important for me.
Over the course of your career what has been the biggest change within the sponsorship industry and how has that affected how you work and how you deliver for partners?
The biggest change I have seen is that brands are doing a lot more due diligence in terms of surveying the market to align with the right partner.
I think a wider group of stakeholders is influencing the final sponsorship decision but that’s a good thing as it means more of the organisation is ultimately behind it. With that in mind, we have to work hard in terms of developing our sponsorship inventory – from schools programmes and summer camps, to employment engagement and CSR initiatives, to the Games themselves.
In my experience, the best sponsorships and long-term partnerships that produce real results are based on teamwork and open communication between small groups of motivated teams in each organisation. That is the constant that underpins how fluid or adaptable any strategy might need to be to deliver agreed goals or to keep pace with ever-evolving trends or market insights.
How has the role of sponsorship changed for the Olympic Federation of Ireland over the past few years? And what predictions can you make about how it’s going to change in the next five years?
In our model, commercial, brand and high performance sport are all linked. You cannot have one without the other. So, in recent years, appreciation across functions within our organisation has really changed.
We know there is a real need for us to be ever-present through PR and to promote our athletes outside of the Summer Olympic Games and across all our events. We believe that sporting bodies that can gain and retain sponsors and partners over the long term will ultimately be the ones most successful on the field.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
In each Olympic cycle, we have multiple international events – Youth, Winter, European and then the Summer Olympic Games, so we are always on. For me that’s exciting.
It’s exciting to see some of our youth athletes at a European Youth Olympic Festival and chart their progression to the senior Games. And Esports is raising eyebrows at the moment, something we are following closely within Olympic circles and events.
In 2024 we celebrate our centenary year, 100 years of Team Ireland. The Paris 2024 Olympic Games is going to be incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime sporting spectacle!