It was only a matterof time before a savvy yacht racing team made the most of the glaring environmental advantage that sailing has over things like motorsport. Today the Sunday Times reports that UK America’s Cup Team – TeamOrigin, run by Sir Keith Mills is partnering with the Carbon Trust to appeal to corporate environmental credentials and raise £75 million in sponsorship for the team.
TeamOrigin and the Carbon Trust will launch a new environmental campaign named The Race for Change – a platform to attract other corporate sponsors.
It’s not the first – or the last time – we will see the lines blurred between not-for-profit and sports sponsorship. The Honda F1 team in 2008 ran a car featuring a picture of the earth and attempted to mix green credentials with hard-core commerical racing. Football (Soccer) team Barcelona carried the UNICEF logos on their shirts and many other sports teams have adopted charities, but this is a little different. By involving the Carbon Trust in sailing, it gives a huge legitimacy to the environmental credentials of the sport. Teams other that TeamOrigin may benefit from awareness generated by the campaign.
Although the current America’s Cup does not involve TeamOrigin and the future of the Cup after February 2010 is unknown, the team can compete in other events while they wait. Specifically, TeamOrigin have an opportunity to compete in the newly announced Louis Vuitton ‘World’ Series which uses old America’s Cup boats, but is not the America’s Cup. Sir Keith, who is also Deputy Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, perhaps controversially, says that the traditional sponsorship equation where brands use elite athletes to promote their product or service through association is not enough anymore.
“The America’s Cup is a perfect vehicle to carry the message of climate change. In the current downturn, big companies are looking to get a lot more from the events and the sports teams they choose to sponsor. It doesn’t cut it any more if you just ask for money. A lot of companies are spending a lot of money on environmental projects. We are building a whole package through this deal with the Carbon Trust that will allow us to harness the power of sport with the environmental debate and help us all work towards lowering our carbon footprint.”
The Carbon Trust will also ensure that TeamOrigin limits its impact on the environment. While the sailboats themselves might be powered by the wind, a renewable energy, the team compete around the world and use air travel extensively. America’s Cup boats are manufactured from materials that use huge amounts of energy and are almost impossible to recycle.
Strangely, the Carbon Trust don’t see sponsorship as a legitimate marketing tool. While the organisation spends big money on outdoor advertising in places like London’s Waterloo station and television advertising, Tom Delay, the trust’s chief executive, says:
“It would be wrong for us to commit any of our money to a normal sponsorship deal – that would not be an appropriate use of our funds.
Hopefully, the deal will open the eyes of some of the large energy companies with interests in alternative energy, particularly wind, to the benefits offered by sailing.