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InSunSport - International - GR

Sailing and Sponsorship – you can’t have one without the other Part 2

by Jeni Bone on 27 Jan 2013
Crowds on South Head enjoy spectacular start to Rolex Sydney Hobart - 2012 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race © Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Following on from our recent rebuttal of an opinion piece by the editor of UK consultancy site, YachtSponsorship, who asserted that while sailing sponsorship delivers exceptional ROI to brands, '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', sponsorship experts have weighed in on the topic.

Previous stories:

Author and veteran sailing commentator, Rob Mundle has more than 40 years professional experience in all facets of sailing, from reporting on several America’s Cup editions to competing in the gruelling Volvo Ocean Race and three Rolex Sydney to Hobart events. He was founder of the Hayman Island Big Boat Series, and is an organiser of Australia’s largest keelboat regatta, the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.

Mundle is effusive about the positive impact of sponsorship on sailing as a recreational pastime and the sport at the elite level.

'Just look at the development that sponsorship funds,' he points out. 'The technology that flows down from racing to recreational vessels is important. Elite sailing is the test bed for the evolution of new technologies. Manufacturers build better boats and people buy them.'

Just look at the benefits of sponsorship to F1 motor racing, continues Mundle. 'The technology and innovations then flow on to the automotive industry.'

For this year’s Rolex Sydney to Hobart, there were 300,000 people around the Harbour and many hundreds of thousands more watching on TV.

People get swept up in the emotion, the characters, challenges and quest of a big boat race, explains Mundle. 'It’s exciting. Ocean racing captures the imagination. It’s something people may dream about doing, but in reality, it’s beyond them.'

The 2012 Rolex Sydney to Hobart secured massive TV coverage on the Seven Network, including blanket live coverage across all news channels of the start and finish, broadcast live as supermaxi, Wild Oats XI entered Sullivan Cove for the final burst to Hobart, aiming to break its own race record and doing so with a remarkable 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds.

'At that point, Mark Richards told the team to get the Wild Oats sail up, because he realised they had uninterrupted TV coverage for the next half an hour. Where else would a brand be able to secure that kind of media exposure?'

With the upcoming America’s Cup, August 21-26 this year, Mundle foresees even great public attention on sailing.

'America’s Cup is a legendary race, regardless of whether Australians are competing. Who can forget that day in September 1983, when the whole country watched as Australia II crossed the America's Cup finishing line at Newport, USA.

'It was a defining moment in the history of Australian sport. Australia broke 132 years of American domination in the America's Cup and Aussies responded to that. Bob Hawke famously said: ‘Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum’.'

This year’s event, to be held in San Francisco, will feature what are being heralded as 'the world’s fastest boats', the AC72, a performance multihull that has been designed to capture the imagination of a new generation of sailors.

Capable of top speeds in excess of twice windspeed, the AC72 is as thrilling to fans as it is to sail and will demand more of the crews than ever before. This athleticism and smaller crew size of 11 will make the 2013 America’s Cup live up to its reputation as 'the toughest sporting event in the world'.

'It will be exciting. People will say ‘I want to go sailing!’ They won’t all want to compete or buy multihulls, but they will be inspired to get into sailing at whatever level appeals to them.'

Mundle refers to the independent analysis of the Volvo Ocean Race (with naming rights sponsor, Volvo, said to have spent £30m for a four year deal) which states clearly the knock on effect of the race – the benefits to sponsors, host cities and the sport itself.

The race began life in 1973 as the Whitbread Round the World Race and is renowned as one of the Big Three events in the sport, along with the Olympics and the America’s Cup. No sailor has won an Olympic gold medal, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.

The VOR boasts such a diverse cast of characters, from the skippers, sailors and shore crew to the volunteers, staff and millions of race village visitors that the media is spoilt for choice with the plethora of story leads.

The post-race report presents a detailed re view of the global reach and multimedia impact of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 – deemed the most successful edition in the event’s nearly 40-year history.

In a nutshell, the study estimates the cumulative TV audience from 8,969 broadcasts as 1.55 billion. The increase in cumulative print readership between 2008-09 and 2011-12 as 41%, and online news articles from 4,240 different online outlets as 58,978.

41.6 million people visited the VOR website and the of?cial YouTube channel attracted eight million viewers. On Facebook there were over 206,000 Fans, and there were 16 million visits to the race tracker, generating 244 million page views.
2.9 million visitors enjoyed the hospitality and celebrations at the Race Villages from Alicante to Galway and there were 2,954 accredited journalists representing 86 different nationalities at the Race Villages and 21,959 corporate guests hosted at the Stopovers.

'The numbers are massive,' observes Mundle, referring to the report’s claim that sponsors earn a 200-300% ROI.
'And in Spain, sport sponsorship is 100% tax deductible, so the incentive is very much there.'

From his own experience, the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, for which Mundle is media director, it’s as much about what sponsors do with their sponsorship as how much they pay.

'A brand can pay to buy an event, but then what they do to leverage that is crucial.'

Audi has been naming rights sponsor for eight years, with this year the final of that sponsorship period. Through a concerted media effort, inviting some of the world’s best yachts, crews, celebrities, fashion identities and positioning the event as a 'must do' on the yachting calendar, Audi has achieved supreme mileage from its association with the event.

'Crews too are really starting to think about their sponsorships, and how to give them the exposure to all different markets that can be measured as ROI,' says Mundle.

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