Where to Spend £10 Million… in Sailing


Last week we asked some questions about the budgets at the top end of the sport, specifically the Open 60 class. Our comments were not appreciated by some of our readers, in particular a throwaway line that suggested that a Vendee Globe campaign was a mere 90 day program.

Steve White, whose campaign for the next edition of the race prompted the article said:

The amount of money stated a sponsor would, over a duration of over three and a half years, get two round the world races, four trans Atlantic races, two Fastnets, four lots of Cowes Week, not to mention many days per year of corporate hospitality and team building on the boat; motivational speaking, a tour of a sponsor’s key sites much as Group Bel are doing, plus the opportunity to have a go at some record attempts (as Aviva have just done). The project also makes an excellent foundation for internal motivational schemes. The list is endless, and even with my maths I’m sure it adds up to a greater return than 90 days exposure during one race… our aim is to provide a sponsor with a significant return before we even cross the start line of the 2012 Vendée Globe, which we will do.

Other comments included:

It is a shame that in an article such as yours you could not have encouraged yacht sponsorship instead of decrying it.

We are passionate advocates of the sport and its ability to deliver returns. We have written over 600 articles and published white papers evangelising the opportunities that yacht racing can provide brands on and off the water. The fact is that sailing, like many sports, sometimes fails to look over the fence to understand what the competition is offering. And there is competition. Not just from other sports, but from other sailing properties.

Even if we were to assume that “unimaginative golf or football shirt sponsorships” were not available to brands and they only had the sport of sailing to choose from, we could argue that there might be better value elsewhere in the sport. We could also argue that the ROI for an Open 60 campaign is higher with a lower budget!

However, our final paragraph of the initial article is more useful

There are companies out for whom sponsoring a Vendee Globe entrant to the tune of £10 million makes a lot of sense. They are probably French or have big French connections. As always, whether or not a sponsorship makes sense comes down to the marketing goals of the sponsor.

It doesn’t matter what the sport is. Sponsorship is about delivering marketing goals for a brand. If the suite of activities offered by a new Open 60 build and accompanying program delivers the marketing goals, including budget goals and ROI requirements then both parties benefit.

For our part, we will continue to promote yacht sponsorship to a wider audience, but sometimes we will also ask hard questions. The resulting debate should move everyone forwards.

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