Team New Zealand have confirmed reports appearing in several New Zealand media on Tuesday that Emirates Airlines are working closely with the team to renew their naming rights sponsorship.
Exposure money can’’t buy - HRH Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Match Racing in the America’’s Cup monohulls on the Waitemata Harbour - April 11, 2014
A news report on TV3 on Tuesday claimed that a trigger point for the airline, which has been a long-time sponsor of the team was the exposure they received from the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and images that went around the world of their match race on Auckland harbour.
The two former America's Cup yachts used in the two race series featured very prominent Emirates signage on the spinnakers - a sight that was picked up by a posse of 160 photographers from around the world. It was exposure that would not have happened without the airlines relationship with the team and occurred over four months after the 2013 America's Cup had ended.
Team New Zealand members on board the two yachts were also dressed in Emirates logo'd team clothing giving further exposure as they were caught in shot with Duke and Duchess.
The fact that the Duchess of Cambridge won the regatta 2-0 was not lost on the world media. She has continued her America's Cup patronage with Ben Ainslie Racing.
The confirmation of the Emirates discussions are not expected to waver the NZ Government's stance towards further funding for the team - other than what has already been announced.
There is an election in New Zealand at the end of September. While the NZ National party is well ahead in the polls and preferred leadership rankings, under a quirk of the New Zealand electoral system, they now have a zero majority, after the resignation of a coalition MP in early June.
Given that political situation, the National led Government will steer clear of any controversy, or taking a stance on an issue which could work against it electorally. It was their political opposition, the Labour party, who initiated the commercial relationship with Team New Zealand, giving the team a contract with NZ Trade and Enterprise which covered the 2007 and 2013 America's Cup campaigns.
In a charm offensive, spanning a seven minute prime time TV news item on Tuesday evening, Emirates Team NZ allowed the cameras into their Auckland base. It also featured an interview with skipper Dean Barker along with design team members, with questions being asked about financial offers they had received from other competitive teams. To see the TV3 news item click here
Later in the evening late night host, Paul Henry, ripped into Team NZ again waving a sheaf of letters claimed to have come from disaffected team members, none of whom would appear on camera or be named. Henry named former Team NZ tactician and Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth as the person he felt should take over the running of the team. Butterworth has been a long time critic of Team NZ management going back to 2008 click here to see story and images. He again called for changes in the management of the team earlier this year in a TV interview, but wanted to see Dean Barket and the design team retained. Click here to view.
Brad Butterworth was one of several former Team NZ sailors, named by Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill as options to manage the team for the next campaign. With one exception all of those named by Spithill left Team NZ in 2000 to join Alinghi and returned to Auckland in 2003 to win the Cup for Switzerland. Two of those named, in turn left Alinghi to join Oracle Team USA after the Deed of Gift Match in Valencia in 2010.
After a tumultuous week, the public support appears to be turning back in favour of Team New Zealand. However the team is yet to announce whether it will proceed with a Challenger for the America's Cup. No other teams are believed to have formally challenged yet, although potential Challengers from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Great Britain have secured initial funding and are in varying stages of design progress and sailing activities.
At this juncture in the 34th America's Cup, two of the three eventual Challengers had entered. Entries close in early August 2014, for the next America's Cup.