Self-described 'official brain washer' for the Spanish and now global brand Camper, Dalia Saliamonas – marketing director and head of special projects – has been with Camper 26 years, starting as international sales manager, 'seeding' the brand around the world, and moving in to special projects.
She admits she 'eats, sleeps and breathes' Camper, but that keeping it fresh is easy in this 'small, family company'.
'I am in charge of anything new and different, including the Volvo Ocean Race.' Sailing is a large part of the Camper marketing arsenal and the VOR is the biggest sponsorship commitment of them all.
'This is not the first, but it’s the biggest. We have sponsored the ¾ Ton Cup, Spanish National Championships, Copa Del Rey, the Audi Med Cup circuit. We have been involved in sailing for many years, and have taken the logical steps from local in Majorca to national, European, international. But this is one step forward. It’s a big decision for Camper. It was a matter of being at the right place at the right time. And when all those things came together and the right people were in place, we jumped at it.'
While Dalia won’t disclose the dollar value, she cites numbers from Volvo of between $25-40 million. 'But we are not the biggest spending company,' she explains. 'For us VOR has become THE project. We have had to scale back a lot of other projects. We’re not big enough to do many different things at the same time.'
Sailing, she says, shares many values with Camper.
'Camper values are ‘family values’. Most people in Camper are sporty and love the outdoors. Camper people are dedicated and love life. You have to be a traditionalist in your heart. It’s a family owned company, and while we’re a bigger international brand these days, we’re like a little company still. It’s like David and Goliath, even here in the VOR. We are fighting in a big world, but we’re still a close-knit family.'
Love of life is at the core of the brand.
In true evangelist style, Dalia says: 'We are showing people ways to enjoy life. Camper says ‘look around you, travel, enjoy your free time, life is so short and so precious.'
People all over the world who sail, love sport, travel and living life to the full.
'People who love sailing, love life. You are are really squeezing out the best in life. We are privileged to travel the world and sit on these amazing marinas to watch the best teams in the world compete for the top prize in ocean racing.'
Dalia uses the high fashion catwalk analogy to compare Camper’s involvement in elite sailing.
'It’s all about team work, technology, design, there’s so much behind it to make it worthwhile. Like fashion parades in Milan – you may not be involved in sailing at an elite level, but the design and the inspiration trickles down. The love of the lifestyle unites us.'
Plus, there’s the amplification the brand enjoys of the community involvement in the hype surrounding the sport and festivities during the stopover. 'Here [in Auckland] it’s almost like religion, it’s a national holiday,' she observes.
Such a high profile and PR-driven presence in the 2011-12 VOR is 'opening new worlds' for Camper, says Dalia, adding that while this foray in to jackets, shirts, shorts and hats both for crew and consumers is certainly exhilarating, 'it’s not permanent'.
'You could say we are playing with clothing. Where it ends up, we’ll have to see. People have liked our clothing, there’s a lot of potential there. But the performance level is a lot of work. There’s a lot of going back and forward for response from the crew. They say ‘we like this, we don’t like that, change this, improve that’. We are lucky they love them! So we’re doing something right.'
She does acknowledge there’s a lot of opportunity of 'premium casual wear' – a market Camper pioneered in shoes. 'At the start, we offered something unique, which was ‘design casual’. As little as we are, Camper were the first people to fuse dress shoes with sport shoes.
'As far as clothing goes, we’re at the brewing stage. We have a family motto ‘step by step’, of testing things and seeing how they go. We have the freedom to explore these things, but we want to go it right.'
For four generations, the Spanish brand Camper has been synonymous with fashion-forward footwear based on old-fashioned craftsmanship and values.
In fact, the brand’s very name is associated with its humble heritage – 'camper' means 'peasant' in Catalan. Just as Camper’s founder, Lorenzo Fluxá was a pioneer in the versatile 'peasant' shoe, Camper has taken small but firm steps in other realms, such as its exercise in branding hotels, known as 'Casa Camper' in Barcelona and Berlin.
'We just have two at this point. We believe if you want to take that next step, you have to do it right.'
Already with an established presence in Asia, the grand plan for this region involves a new store scheduled for opening in Brisbane in April and one planned for Auckland, after a false start some years ago, before the brand was really understood.
'We may have been seen as a bit alternative,' she admits. But now, Dalia believes NZ is ready for Camper – particularly with the intensity of Camper’s saturation of Auckland in recent days. 'It has been phenomenal. Everywhere you look, red Camper shirts worn by people who wouldn’t have heard of the brand a few months ago. We aim to show that Camper is design oriented with a twist of fashion.'
The Auckland stopover is a very important one for Camper, says Dalia, as this is where the boat was built and first trialled on water. 'It's very much a ‘coming home’' for the yacht and crew. And the reception has been beyond our wildest imagination. Even the New Zealanders were surprised.'
Camper has built its distinctive 'Base Camp' structure in the VOR race village which will house the boat while it is being repaired and prepped for the most arduous leg to Brazil, and will also be used by the team for training. The Base Camp also features a Camper 'pop-up' store selling Camper/VOR merchandise and a café area, plus comfy lounges for chilling out and media interviews.
Tuesday 13 March was nominated 'Spanish Day' in the race village, with Spanish bands, activities and cuisine on show throughout the Village and on the main stage, giving avid visitors a taste of Spanish customs and culture.
But how do you judge return on investment amid this whirlwind sporting festival and serious business of ocean racing?
'We look at the cost values of TV programming, audience reach. We have sophisticated media monitoring. Auckland has been drenched in Camper red and I know the indirect reach of this is bigger than any number. We were on TV last night and this morning. It’s great. Fortunately, we have big agencies who monitor that.'
Importantly, Camper backs up its dockside presence, sensational boat and talented crew with PR supported by strategic advertising.
'Most of our spending is in PR, and around the world, inviting people to visit us to find out who we are. We are not anti-advertising, but to get to every corner of the world with advertising is impossible for a small company. We have to rely on other activities rather than a 30 second TV ad. We have done some really spectacular things. In Paris, for example, all the city buses were covered in our boat and brand. It was incredible!'
America’s Cup is looming on the horizon, but first, World Series racing in Venice in April, coinciding with the Camper yacht’s arrival in Miami. 'We are waiting for the 72 to come out in early [northern] summer and to learn how to control that monster and support them is going to be our focus. America’s Cup is a totally New Zealand entry, so we are just there to support and as fans.'
More at www.camper.com/en/volvo-ocean-race
by Jeni Bone
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8:09 AM Sun 18 Mar 2012GMT
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2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race
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