Six Nations sponsor problem solved - but Guinness deal comes at a cost
Rugby union - 06 Dec 2018
Rugby union’s Six Nations Championship is reported to have solved its long-running title sponsorship problem with a new six-year deal with Guinness, the brewer owned by drinks giant Diageo, under which the annual tournament will be known as the Guinness Six Nations, starting in February.
However, Guinness is set to pay just £6 million ($7.6 million) in the first year, which will grow annually and double by the end of the deal, according to a report in the Times newspaper, confirming the falling value of top-tier rugby sponsorships. Previous sponsor Royal Bank of Scotland was reported to have paid £11 million in 2017.
Last year, NatWest, a subsidiary of RBS, paid £9 million to give its name to the 2018 tournament for one edition only, after Six Nations organisers were unable to attract a new long-term sponsor.
RBS had been the main partner of the Six Nations since 2004, but walked away, having announced in June 2016 that it was to pursue an “alternative sponsorship strategy.”
Ahead of last year’s Six Nations, organisers were reported to have valued the sponsorship at £100 million over six years, and to have turned down an offer from RBS to continue at £14 million a year. However, despite employing agency CAA Sports and holding talks with over 150 companies, they were unable to find a replacement.
The need to secure a sponsorship deal was becoming increasingly pressing as the 2019 tournament involving defending champions Ireland, plus England, France, Italy, Scotland and Wales, kicks off in under two months’ time, on 1 February.
Guinness has a 40-year history as a sponsor of rugby union events. It is the title sponsor of the PRO14, the Europe-based rugby union clubs competition that now includes teams from South Africa, in a deal running until 2020, and last year renewed its sponsorship of England’s Rugby Football Union in a four-year deal.
It also sponsors the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Scottish Rugby Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, and was a lower-tier supporter of the Six Nations until the new deal was struck.