Having worked with one of the biggest sports agencies in the world, Cian Branagan has returned to Ireland with golf at the core of the business of ForeFront Sports.
In a new series, we talk to past participants on Back for Business, an Irish Government-supported programme for returned emigrants – or those planning to return in the near future – who are starting or developing businesses in Ireland.
Up to 50 people will be offered places on this year’s initiative, which is funded from the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme and was established to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among emigrants returning to live in Ireland.
“Covid has accelerated the uptake in golf. The demand for everything golf-related is growing and with golf being the core of our business, it’s been really good”
This is the fifth year of Back for Business and the free programme, which will run from February to June 2022, is currently looking for applications – with the closing deadline Tuesday 15 February. For more information on Back for Business or to register your interest in receiving an application form, please see www.backforbusiness.com
Playing to win in the business of sports
Today, we are speaking to Cian Branagan, founder and CEO of ForeFront Sports Management, which is a Dublin-based sports management company. Cian returned from London in November 2019 where he had been working with ING, the biggest sports agency in the world, with a dream of setting up his own business in Ireland.
Branagan left Ireland for London in 2012 to fulfil a dream of working for ING, the biggest sports agency in the world, having worked in the area of golf events in Ireland up to that point.
Seven years later, he returned to his native Malahide in Co Dublin in November 2019 to fulfil another dream – setting up and running his own company.
“It was time to move back,” he says. “My wife and I are both from here and I always had a goal to set up my own agency here.”
Cian set up ForeFront Sports Management in March 2020, and despite the immediate arrival of a global pandemic, he hasn’t looked back. “I wanted it to be an events and talent agency with golf at the core of the business. But when Covid hit, events were cancelled and people weren’t playing golf, so I pivoted to work with international golfing brands that weren’t in the market in Ireland,” he says.
“We’ve got three pillars to the company now, the brands being the main one currently. We work with them on their sales and marketing and on different strategies for events and player endorsements. Then we’ve got the events division, which is slowly starting to come alive now, and we’re starting to build out a small portfolio of athletes in various sports. Covid has accelerated the uptake in golf. The demand for everything golf-related is growing and with golf being the core of our business, it’s been really good.”
Cian didn’t find the formation of his company particularly difficult. “The business evolved pretty quickly once I promoted it on LinkedIn. I had one or two brands reach out to me saying they were looking to get into the Irish market,” he says.
Not only did he launch his business during a pandemic; he also got married and he and his wife had their first child. “We had a pretty crazy year but being around our families and having that close knit community base here has been really important for us,” he says.
Cian found the Back for Business programme to be an excellent experience in a number of ways. “The biggest thing I got from it was reassurance,” he says. “There were other people going on the journey with you. It was obviously a very vulnerable time during Covid. Being able to converse with other people who were having the same struggles as you was great.” Learning from the experience of Lead Entrepreneur, Áine Denn, was another key benefit of a programme he strongly recommends.
As well as Cian, ForeFront Sports Management has two part-time employees and a positive outlook for what the future holds. “We hope to have our events division fully up and running by the end of the year. We’re getting into the golf VR space at the moment through a company we are working with. By year end, I hope to have three Irish golfers on the team and, ideally, we will have eight brands – all brought into the Irish market for the first time. It’s very promising from our perspective.”