Is AC33 the Way to Deliver Global Green Message Through Sailing?

If nothing else, the America’s Cup does turn up some eccentric billionaires. While SNG and the GGYC continue to keep their lawyer’s pools heated, the new challenger has decided to spend 30 million euros on a campaign to try and design, build and race a multihull before February. Leaving aside all the other issues, which are covered in a long interview by Valencia Sailing, the choice of event to achieve the stated goals is a strange one.

Here is an excerpt of the interview with Francesco de Leo, CEO of Green Comm…

Valencia Sailing: It might be peanuts (30 million euros) for a multinational telecom group, but in sailing, especially under the current tough environment, it’s difficult to find such an amount. Don’t forget that in the best-case scenario you might be only racing for 10-15 days.

Francesco de Leo: Your question is legitimate but I think that the major error you commit is that you can’t manage the America’s Cup thinking it’s just a sailing event. The America’s Cup is a business. The choice we have made since the beginning is to have a green agenda, our statement that this will become the cornerstone of the new economy whose aim is to save the environment. It’s true we are going through a crisis but we don’t come to Valencia saying we are going to a regatta. It has to become a public agenda, a global media platform where we say, “Yes we are in Valencia because we want to sponsor a multihull team” but a the same time we talk about our company, about what we do, our technologies, how we satisfy the needs of our clients. The America’s Cup is by far the most appropriate event but if I run the event without such a global agenda, it then becomes more difficult.

Valencia Sailing: So, if I understand well, for you the actual race or the sport of sailing is secondary, a side dish. The America’s Cup for you is a show rather than a sport event.

Francesco de Leo: No, maybe I din’t express myself correctly. The things we are doing will help a sector face a problem whose solution will require a lot of time. Sailing is undoubtedly the sport that best embraces the same ideals. Our mission is much more complicated and the people that work with us are aware that we have an additional task; to work in a green low carbon-emission manner.

One has to question the motives from a sponsorship perspective. If the goal is to promote saving the environment through a green agenda via a global media platform certainly you can spend 30 million euros more efficiently than the 33rd America’s Cup. It’s fantastic to see people embrace sailing as a sport that can convey the message and it is even better to see that there are still business people out there who think that 30 million euros for a sponsorship campaign is ‘nothing’ – but even sports marketing experts who specialise in yacht racing would not reccomend this approach. No doubt that Mr de Leo is about new business practises and breaking the rules, but there are much better ‘global’ yacht racing options out there.