How To Make the Front Page 1

Earlier this month 30 skippers started the gruelling Vendee Globe. Teams with budgets of several million, state of the art carbon fibre yachts with sophisticated auto-pilots painted in the livery of brands like Aviva, Hugo Boss, Artemis and Ecover. But as we reported, the start barely made the sports section of the papers in the UK. This Sunday, the front page of the Sunday Times featured a photo of Michael Perham, a 16 year old who is attempting a circumnavigation. 

The estimated cost of the venture is £200,000. The return on investment for sponsors like Totally Money is already plainly visable in terms of media coverage. But is this about sailing. Is this about sport? Or is this is about human interest – the slightly side show freak element of headlines – the youngest, the biggest, the smallest, the poorest, the underdog. 

Perhaps in the end, the motives of the media don’t matter and the profile of sailing is increased and the value of sponsoring sailing projects validated. The companies who have backed Michael have got a great deal. They have invested a fraction of the cost of a Vendee Globe or Volvo Ocean Race project and are already seeing the results. Michael’s sponsors are listed on his website.

  • As a PR professional working with this every day, this is a very familiar challenge. When the Vendee Globe was in it’s infancy it attracted a lot more attention because of the human interests side of circumnavigating the globe alone was a huge thing (it still is). An adventure out of the ordinary by people who did it for pure adrenalin kicks. Now it’s all more money, this is the skipper “day jobs”, and big sponsordeals. When events becomes so commercialized it is more important than ever to get the human interest stories out to the media. Because reporters don’t like to feel like they main job is to push a brand name to their readers. That’s not their jobs.

    But the good thing about Vendee Globe is that it’s a Web 2.0 event – and the fully know how to utilize this. They have their audience on the web. Yesterday alone the skippers posted nine videos on the race website. These guys are alone and still know how to push a story.

    The case with the 16 year old getting media attention is actually a no-brainer PR wise. Everyone loves a kid who is trying to live the adventure on a shoestring budget of that magnitude. It’s just about getting the message out to a few well picked media – and the rest will follow. But it comes to how to utilize the sponsorship commercially right for Totally Money, now that’s a whole different story than just making the headline a couple of times.
    I’ll be watching…