Torvar Mirsky and his Mirsky Racing Team (MRT) reached their second consecutive final in the World Match Racing Tour yesterday and as a result went to the top of the World Championship points table. That this young team from Western Australia has achieved the top spot is not surprising, what is worth noting is that the team has no sponsorship.
MRT are not the only talented sailing team to find it hard to attract corporate backing. Even well established national teams at the very top of the sport are finding that 12 months on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and a sharp econoic downturn, sport sponsorship is still a tough sell.
Grant Dalton, head of the NZ team competing in the Med Cup and planning to race in the newly announced Louis Vuitton Series said last week that long time sponsor Emirates have not made a decision to keep backing the team:
We have a very close relation with them (Emirates) and they have been fully briefed but in the last 2 years it has been very hard to hold discussions and the only thing we could say was “possibly, maybe, might do, could do”. Their reactions was always, “hold on, we sponsor all those football teams and we know the ball will be kicked on Saturday afternoon”. That’s why I waited until today. I can now go and see them and tell them “it’s happening, here is the race format, here are the dates and here is the price”.
Unlike the proposed Louis Vuitton Series, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is an established world championship with ISAF accreditation visiting a combination of established and developing markets. The winner of the WMRT becomes the official Match Racing World Champion, but despite producing the helmsmen that go on to win America’s Cups, the tour’s athletes don’t attract the backing of corporate sponsors to the extent that they should.
Often, there is not a direct relationship between sponsorship and talent. Corporate marketing departments obviously want to be associated with winners, but there are other considerations. UK companies may find a better fit with UK competitors – allowing them to tap into fans who lend nationalistic support. Brands also want athletes that ‘fit’ well with the image of the product or service they are looking to sell or the audience they are trying to reach. Last week Dee Caffari annouced on her Blog and Twitter feed that Aviva would not renew it’s long term support for her sailing. The insurance company has embarked on a completely different approach to its marketing – spending a reported £80 million rebranding including celebrity endorsements from people like Elle McPherson, Bruce Willis and Macaulay Culkin.
On the face of it, athletes like Torvar Mirsky, Dee Caffari and the NZ America’s Cup Team, all at the top of their game with proven track records should be able to find companies that would benefit from using sailing as a promotional platform, but the global economic situation is still making marketing departments wary. The other way of looking at it, is that these properties represent fantastic value for money.
Torvar Mirsky and MRT will be competing in the final two races of the World Match Racing Tour in Bermuda and Malaysia over the coming months.
Disclaimer: Pilote Media, the publishers of YACHTSPONSORSHIP.COM also run MRT’s website http://www.miskyracingteam.net and advise the team on matters relating to sponsorship.