The Even Keel Project. A Different Kind of Yacht Sponsorship.

f-even-keelOne of the things that makes the business of Yacht Racing so interesting is that it provides so many different opportunities. While the huge number of events and classes can make things confusing for a sponsor, it can also mean that you can probably find a property that suits your goals. But it doesn’t all have to be about elite athletes, silver cups and media rights. Like many sports, sailing can provide a platform to develop teamwork, self-esteem and a sense of pride for people in the community who are sometimes overlooked.

a-nick-stantonWe caught up with Nick Stanton, Sponsorship Co-ordinator for the Even Keel Project to get an insight into a slightly different yacht sponsorship offer.

Y$: What is the Even Keel Project about?

The Even Keel Project is a new and exciting initiative which is aiming to remove common barriers which often prevent those with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds from having the opportunity to experience the many benefits sailing as a sport offers. It also aims to provide the platform by which these individuals can participate and compete with and against able bodied sailors on a level playing field, or an even keel. In doing this the project hopes to make sailing more accessible to all and highlight the fact that it is the perfect sport for crossing the disability divide and improving the lives of many people who may never have known that it is available to them.

The Even Keel Project aims to establish sailing sites all around the world that provide free of charge sailing opportunities as well as providing the perfect environment for these individuals to expand on their experience should they wish. By aiming to establish these sites in famous sailing venues the project can benefit from high profile events and not only provide its users with a more exciting experience but also provide a more attractive proposition for the potential sponsorship partners required to fund their establishment.

The project is progressing at an impressive pace and has already established its’ first site in partnership with Artemis Investment Management and The United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA) in Cowes on the Isle of Wight where we are now operating regular sailing opportunities. The Even Keel team have also recently been involved with the Volvo Ocean Race stop-over stage in Galway where we are now working hard to establish a permanent site in line with the race organisers’ intentions of leaving a legacy wherever it visits. During our time in Galway we succeeded in entertaining over twenty individuals with a variation of disabilities who had the unique opportunity to go sailing right in the thick of all the race action and on some occasions actually with members of the race teams themselves, which as I am sure you can imagine, made the experience even more memorable.

Y$: What sponsors do you currently have?

The Even Keel Project has been very fortunate to have the support of Artemis Investment Management who have committed to the full title sponsorship of the UK site to form The Artemis Even Keel Project UK. Artemis, a name now synonymous with sailing is one of the UK’s leading investment management companies and has been involved with the Artemis20 yachts for three years. Artemis is committed to supporting sailing in British waters, whether professional offshore racing or grass roots programmes for disabled or disadvantaged individual. The project is also very grateful to Puma who have been very generous in providing some excellent clothing for the team to wear while operating.

Y$: What do your partners get out of their sponsorship of the Even Keel Project?

The Even Keel Project provides a unique and exciting opportunity for potential partners to secure a brand synergy with a project which is genuinely having a positive impact on the lives of many individuals and charitable organisations. The funding which is released from such partnerships directly supports the surrounding community and drives increased footfall into the surrounding area, which in turn supports local businesses and is boosted further with the opportunities created by high profile events hosted by the project. The Even Keel Project provides for the ideal Corporate Social Responsibility scheme for any partner yet has the advantage of being able to also deliver media exposure and tangible marketing return in the form of brand representation. In addition to this, the project provides a fantastic opportunity for its partners to benefit from a myriad of sailing experiences that can be arranged, including corporate client entertainment, team building and personal development programmes, race training or simply employee reward schemes.

Y$: How have you found the reaction of sponsors in the current climate?

As a new project , the hardest aspect to achieving sponsorship for us is the fact we have been essentially attempting to sell a concept as opposed to a tangible operation which has a proven track record of delivering value to partners. The effect of the current economic climate definitely hasn’t helped us with this, as potential partners have definitely become more stringent in where they do invest any remaining sponsorship budgets.

Y$: What are the success factors in terms of the sponsorship? How will you know if you have met your goals?

At this stage of the project our success will be entirely down to whether or not we can secure the sponsorship partners required to establish sites. We have huge ambitions to make this project a success and in doing so improving the lives of many people with disabilities around the world. It is only with the support of the organisations that recognise both the corporate social responsibility factors and excellent potential brand association that we can achieve our goals. At this time we are striving to make our proposition as appealing to as many of these organisations as possible by working hard on the UK site so we can start to provide a more tangible set of deliverables to offer potential partners. I am more than confident from the feedback and encouragement we have received to date that this is a fantastic project which will appeal to many organisations when they become more aware of it. But our main goals at this stage are to work hard for Artemis Investment Management to ensure we build long lasting relationships which exceed the expectations of everyone involved.

Y$: What are some of the events coming up?

We have an extremely busy August scheduled. This commences with Cowes Week where we are running a similar programme to what we provided in Galway with ‘try sailing days’ aimed at getting more first time sailors with disabilities out on the water. We are also entering the fleet of 6 Artemis20 keel boats into the Sonar class event on the Wednesday and have arranged for each boat to be crewed by one able and one disabled person to highlight the aims of the project. The Toe in the Water (TITW) team will also be making the most of the Even Keel fleet and will be doing some race training with us on the Tuesday afternoon which promises to be great fun.

After Cowes Week we will be dismantling the fleet and heading north in order to compete at the Sailabilty Multi Class Regatta in Rutland between the 14th and 16th August. After which we will be remaining in Rutland for two extra days in order to provide training days for anyone wishing to benefit from the boats availability. After this we have a number of parties interested in arranging ‘try sailing’ weekends and events in order to help us raise the awareness of the project and get more people out on the water.

Later in the year we are also hoping to attend the Non Tide Race on the River Thames which should allow us some excellent exposure to the City and any potential partners who we meet there. We are currently looking to run corporate sailing experiences in order to generate additional funding for the projects activities and this will give us the perfect opportunity to show case the boats and project right in front of some major potential partners.

Y$: You’re new to Sailing and new to sponsorship – what were you doing before you took up this role?

Before joining The Even Keel Project I was the sales manager for a payroll and HR outsourcing company. I was part of a small team who were brought in to grow the customer base quickly and develop the business to a point that which it could separate from its parent body and work independently. My role involved building and training a sales team to convert leads produced by a major Bank partner we also achieved in securing.

Y$: Are there processes or thinking that you have brought to this role from your previous jobs?

I think there are many processes which are shared by all jobs that involve essentially selling something, whether its software, a service or sponsorship package. These involve thinking and working intelligently to ensure you are approaching and communicating with the correct people while ensuring you don’t upset anyone in getting to that person. Then working hard to try and exceed what you have promised to deliver and in doing so build strong lasting relationships. Being new to both the sailing and sponsorship industries I have had to try and relate where I succeeded in my previous roles and apply that to what I am doing here and this mainly involved being as personable and friendly as possible and working hard. I’m a great believer in not burning bridges as a relationship which might not be perfect now might one day be invaluable.

Y$: What has been your biggest learning?

Prior to this role I have had very little experience of sailing in general so had a huge learning curve to climb very quickly just to start understanding some of the most basic of aspects of sailing, let alone the sponsorship role. David Rutter the CEO has taken a big risk in employing me with little sailing knowledge and I appreciate his confidence in my other traits and experience, which only makes me more determined to succeed. I have also had little experience in dealing with people with disabilities and although I could see the obvious value of the experiences we would be providing, I wasn’t prepared for just how rewarding actually witnessing the positive impact we make would be. For me this provides the perfect job where I can network and build fantastic new contacts whilst knowing I am helping to improve the lives of others at the same time and I think there are very few jobs these days which provide that. I only hope I can learn enough, fast enough, to help make this project the success it warrants.