I’ve been asking a question of several event organsiers and promoters of late. It’s a question that is important when considering how sponsorship fits with sailing. The simple question is – ‘Why do you exist?’
The answer to this question determines how you run your event, from choice of venue and partners to entry fees and timing. The FT has reported that organisers of ‘The World’s Oldest Regatta’ – Cowes Week, are planning to plunder reserves to run this year’s event. The question is – Why does Cowes Week exist?
The eight-day regatta, which attracts 100,000 to the Isle of Wight each August, has been finding it difficult to replace Skandia, who have backed the event in recent years.
Stuart Quarrie, chief executive of Cowes Week Limited, said on Monday it would use up two-thirds of its reserves, increase entry fees and cut costs to guarantee that this year’s regatta went ahead if no new sponsor came forward.
“We have already started to look at what to do if Doomsday came about,” he said, adding that he was confident a new sponsor would be found for 2010. Skandia provided Cowes Week with about £750,000 each year – half of the event’s revenues – and spent the same again activating its sponsorship.
This statement raises more questions than it answers. Why does Cowes Week Limited have reserves? Does this mean that the entrant’s fees of between £220 and £1600 per boat and Skandia’s chunk of money was not all spent? If not, why were they charged so much in the first place?
Regular readers of this site will know that our position is that nostalgia gets in the way of pragmatism in sailing. This is especially true in the UK. Rather than lead with ‘The Best Regatta in the World’ the event goes with ‘The Oldest Regatta in the World.’
Despite the millions of pounds that has been poured into the Cowes economy by sailors and sponsors over the years, the town is barely fit to host a global event of this scale. Local businesses have not worked out how to deal with the huge influx of sailors during events like the Round the Island Race and Cowes Week and the windswept ghost-town that is Cowes for most of the year.
Most sailing events exist for the competitors, but here’s a test – rank in order of importance the following Cowes Week stakeholders:
- The Competitors
- The Title Sponsor
- The Cowes Economy
- The Isle of Wight Economy
- Local Residents
- The Sailing press
- The General press
- Corporate Hospitality Guests
- Others? (Cowes Week Limited)
My guess is that none of the sailors mind if they never see another fireworks display, so why make such a fuss over the pyrotechnical loss? Because Cowes Week is about more than the sailors. So why doesn’t the Cowes community and the Isle of Wight community step up?
The website for the World Yacht Racing Forum states “FACT: Cowes Week adds £20 Million to the Isle of Wight economy in 1 week.” £750,000 invested for £20 Million return seems like a pretty good return on investment, so why are the local business and politicians not providing more support? It could be that a) the £20 million number is a fantasy or b) the Isle of Wight community is complacent and content to take the money from others.
It would be a real shame if Cowes Week dissapeared, but who would miss it? See the list of stakeholders above. Some would, some wouldn’t. How can you convince a sponsor that they are a good match for your audience when you don’t know who your audience is.
The answer to the question ‘Why are we doing this?’ needs to be more than ‘Because we’ve always done it.’