Lynn Fitzpatrick from World Regattas.com talks to Christine Belanger about Louis Vuitton’s Pacific Series.
Louis Vuitton has established deep running relationships during its quarter of a century commitment to the America’s Cup. Louis Vuitton’s Director, Christine Belanger, explained, “Our relationship has been as a partner in running the event, not a sponsor and there is a big distinction.”
Belanger and Bruno Trouble visited Auckland in August to work through the details of the event with their co-hosts and partners Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand. The regatta was announced on September 15 and within no time teams that had confidence in Louis Vuitton because of the company’s tradition of delivering results and standing behind it’s word, expressed interest. Registrations poured in on the average of one a day for the first two weeks.
The partners knew that it would be impossible accommodate the teams by holding the regatta with only two boats. They considered the message that it would send if they refused teams. Would it be interpreted as only choosing the best teams or the first ones to register? “We never look only at the short-term return. We considered our long-term relationship with the sport and with the people.”
Louis Vuitton Chairman & CEO, Yves Carcelle agreed to increase the event budget to add another pair of boats to the series, enabling the regatta to grow. While the partners moved into high gear to pull it off, they watched the global economic environment take its toll on the teams. “The human factor is important. Our company depends on craftsmen. We need the men. We need the people and the human factor is important in the a relationship,” Belanger explained as she drew the parallel between the teams that were struggling to remain intact and funded and the craftsmen who have carried Louis Vuitton through economic cycles.
“We have always been committed to the development of the America’s Cup, not only as a sports event, but in the people, the lifestyle and the technology,” said Belanger. Louis Vuitton has been working with Ian Taylor and his animation technology since 1992, because Louis Vuitton had always been in charge of communications for the Louis Vuitton Cup. “We always tried to develop new communications technology for the event. In 1995 we introduced 3-D and in 1999 we had the first sporting event website.”
Although there are not enough funds in the budget for continual television coverage, sailing spectators in New Zealand can watch a combination of live TV and animated technology, presented by Virtual Eye and directed by Williams. The coverage runs all day and the teams with a bye for the day are often found in the sailors’ lounge watching intently. It won’t be long before Williams’ Virtual Eye team improves the details right down to the team uniforms on the sailors and the technology becomes affordable for other regattas.
Hosting the event in New Zealand has made it more difficult to manage the VIP opportunities, but positive press coverage has been delivered far and wide, reinforcing Louis Vuitton’s loyalty to its partners and the teams. Louis Vuitton is sending a positive image to all.
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