The Volvo Ocean Race recently released a 133 page report into the previous edition. Much of that report was dedicated to the return on investment received by sponsors of the race. One of the findings of the report was that sponsors of sailing can get better returns than other sports because the brand-name is mentioned more than the names of the athletes. The report says:
'The Volvo Ocean Race occupies an exceptional space in the sporting world as a major property that is universally referred to with a brand name in the title, while offering similar opportunities for sponsors backing individual teams. The fact that sailors on board are not generally household names across the world can actually help sponsors too. There is little option for media covering the race but to refer to several brand names whereas in other sport, news organisations work hard to avoid making such references. With the Volvo Ocean Race, such avoidance is not realistically possible.'
While this sounds good for sponsors, it doesn’t sound like something that is good for the sport in the long term, especially if sailing wants to create long term fans.
Fans follow athletes or teams, they don’t follow brands, which makes the situation that the Volvo Ocean Race is currently in a bit strange. Race organisers have announced the first entry for the next race. The entry has a sponsor, but it has no skipper and no team – so where are the fans going to come from?