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The dream makers - Episode 4: Marrying up skippers and sponsors

by Vendee Globe 21 Apr 2022 07:50 PDT
Vendée Globe © Vincent Curutchet/Alea

It is a long and mostly difficult path to the start line of the Vendée Globe and not everyone makes it. Here is number four in our series of those team members who work behind the curtain in a while variety of different roles to help get the project from being an idea to actually crossing the start line and going racing.

Number 4, the sponsorship seeker or agent.

In days gone by this job was more often than not carried out by the skipper or someone close to him or her who had experience in this area of business but now increasingly there are agents or agencies marrying interested sponsors to skippers and campaigns. And as budgets grow and the consequent demands and requirements of the partner expand correspondingly so the marcomms team and expertise required seems to grow with each edition.

Without doubt the success of the Vendée Globe 2020-2021 massively expanded the audience and the following for the race and more sponsors are returning again than ever before, and more new sponsors are coming in, seeking to benefit from being associated with a skipper in the race. Companies love to be associated with the human adventure and the engaging personalities who take on the race.

And so right now there are many skippers looking and a number of companies, big and small, looking to take a step into the world of the Vendée Globe. Agents or agencies are fully engaged right now in marrying sponsors to skippers or vice versa.

Arnaud Baudry d'Asson, President of the OConnection agency, explains the reasons for the creation of OLarge (ed note 'au Large' being the French term for 'offshore) which is the French marketing agencies commercial team which approaches sponsors for skippers, or which matches skippers to companies wishing to move into sailing sponsorship.

"Two patterns exist at the same time," he says. " Either we approach a company because we know it has an interest in sailing, or we go to them speculatively because we know that this company is looking for a new marketing arena which will allow it to express itself and it can benefit most from being associated with a real adventure. Quite often companies that have no connection with sailing, contact the race organizers to find out more. We are here to help research the opportunity."

Baudry d'Asson confirms that the Vendée Globe 2020-2021 has marked a significant step in the popularity and profile of the Everest of the seas, the race now attracting more and more companies. "The ninth edition was extraordinary, full of adventures and it all came at the perfect time, while the health crisis was raging. There was a certain click. And this trigger is undoubtedly heralding the arrival of new partners in sailing, who find in the Vendée Globe the right platform to convey their message. It is a totally mixed sport. Sailing also allows the company to portray its values according to various criteria: the ability to perform in terms of the sporting performance, on personality, on the strength of representing a geographical origin."

Arnaud Baudry d'Asson continues: "Sailing is an incredibly inclusive and open in terms of the adventure although it is a sport for the initiated. If we broaden the spectrum, we notice that there is an impressive number of sponsors and that there is still room to bring in more and more not least as more and more women get involved, as a new generation of younger sailors come in and above all the capacity of sailing to carry CSR (corporate social responsibility, editor's note) messages which ae naturally attributed to sailing."

An example of successful marrying of a company to a sponsor? Best Western, which supported Romain Attanasio from the 2020-2021 edition. Approached jointly by the teams of the Parisian agency and by an independent sales agent, Best Western "dived" into the deep end of sponsorship for the first time thanks to the Vendée Globe. What seduced them? The adventure, of course, the beauty of the images of escape, in tune with the image of a hotel group. And of course the image and larger than life personality of the skipper.

"Before the first meeting, the company had already carried out its investigation," smiles Arnaud Baudry. "Romain is demanding, friendly but he does not hesitate to take risks, and that builds an engaging personality. He wasn't afraid to speak about his fear, which speaks directly to the audience. People need to project themselves and 'encounter' real human values."

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