Some of sailing’s biggest sponsors are auto manufacturers – from the Volvo Ocean Race to BMW’s backing of the GGYC America’s Cup bid. It’s always interesting to understand why marketing people choose sponsorships. The Audi Med Cup have released an interview with Lothar Korn – the Head of Marketing Communications, AUDI AG. He is the direct contact for the German brand in sponsorship, and therefore, with the Audi MedCup Circuit.
Some might say that being a car manufacturer and sponsoring sailing doesn’t make a lot of sense, but Korn knows the huge potential of this relationship between Audi and the world’s leading regatta Circuit.
Audi MedCup- How did the relationship between Audi and the MedCup Circuit start?
Lothar Korn- “The relationship between Audi and the MedCup started for us with a ‘training’ year when it was still the Breitling MedCup, when Audi supported as co-sponsor. Then we stepped in as the main sponsor, and made from the MedCup the Audi MedCup, which is now celebrating its second year.”
AM- What does sailing add to the image of Audi?
LK- “Sailing has a lot in parallel with the image of Audi. It can strengthen some aspects of our brand: if you look at the dynamism, at the elegance and the design of the boats, if you look at the technology… Audi is ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ -‘Lead through Technology’-, and technology is also very important for the MedCup too, it is a high-tech sports environment. Light weight plays an important role for the boats, they make good use of carbon, and so light weight is also one of Audi’s main strengths, so there are a lot of parallel elements.”
AM- Are you a sailor yourself?
LK- “I’m not a sailor, but I used to be a windsurfer, so I know a lot about the wind, the power of wind, the dynamism, about tactics a little bit, and I am very keen on sailing too.”
AM- Which aspects of sailing attract you the most, apart from speed?
LK- “Well, it’s the elegance and technology, in parallel with the design and technology approach of Audi, and of course it is the competition itself. We are a sporty brand and therefore we like sports where you have the competitive aspect as well.”
AM- As a sponsor, do you take part in the process of choosing the venues?
LK- “We take part in the process of choosing the venues, and we would love to be more involved in that, because the venues are really important; how the MedCup is executed at the venue, where it takes place, and also how people are being involved and participating, since it is not just about the sailors but also the spectators are particpants engaged with the event. And for us it is also important, of course, the kind of dealer we have, where the events are held; a large city, where there are more people, is of more interest that a remote area. Therefore, the involvement is there, but we would love to have an even stronger one.”
AM- Some sailors miss a venue in the North of Europe?…
LK- “In the Atlantic ocean? Well I have never actually thought about the ocean, I think about venues. But yes, of course, any coast where we have markets with a strong sailing community are interesting for the Audi MedCup, and if we would have an event, for instance, in Kiel, Germany, around the Kieler Woche, or in the UK which is our second biggest market in Europe, that would be great.”
AM- Which improvements have you noticed in this two years?
LK- “I think the Audi MedCup Village is a very good addition to the event itself, also the Virtual Eye, it’s very important that we transmit the action back directly to the land. One of the disadvantages of sailing is that the sport is off-shore and, in the end, it’s only possible for a small crowd to be out there with a catamaran or with some other support boats, so it is very important to relay the action directly, and the Virtual Eye is something which helps a lot.”
AM- What are your expectations for next year?
LK- “I would really like to see the events grow, , to see more spectators; whenever we have a big crowd on land, if people are interested in that, it also becomes more interesting for the media. And also for us as a title sponsor it is important that the media be interested in the sport, because otherwise the return in our investment would not be as good as it should be.”
AM- Which differences do you find between sailing competitors and the ones of other sports you sponsor, like motor sport?
LK- “Motor sport is a different thing; we are not sponsoring motor sport because we are a car manufacturer, and we actually compete in motor sport, so that is part of our core business. If you are a sports brand you have to be active in motor sport, so we basically have three areas where we practice this: Le Mans, the long distance race – the toughest race in motor sport -, where we use TDI technology, which everybody can buy in our usual Audi models; we do have the DTM – the German Touring Masters -, where we have the A4 running; and finally we have our customers sports car, the R8 LMS, which participates in several races as well.”
AM- Do you see any differences between sailors and racers in this case, any particularity about sailors?
LK- “First of all, sailors go on the water, the drivers go on asphalt which is a major difference (laughs). In terms of sports and dynamism and tactics, the technology in the car and in boats can be similar. Last year I learnt that, on one of the Audi MedCup Circuit boats, the telemetry computer is the same as the one of Formula 1, so in terms of technology, there are lots of similarities.”