Seems like a week doesn’t go past when we don’t hear about another new event in the world of sailing. Some have more going for them than others and many are very much more the ‘branded entertainment’ model of sport, rather than a proper competition.
Certainly one of the trends that is hard to ignore in sailing at the moment is the use of the sport in destination marketing campaigns. Oman, Abu Dhabi, Andalucia, Alicante, Perth and even Hull & Humber are using sailing to promote tourism, business tax rates, marinas and generally get more people to spend money in a country, region or town.
Now New York is getting in on the act. The cities of Barcelona and New York, through the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona (FNOB) and the New York City Sports Commission have announced a new transoceanic sailing event to take place in April 2010, the NY-BCN Transoceanic Sailing Record.
This is an event that reeks of officialdom and administrative busy-ness. The event is aimed at strengthening the sporting and cultural bonds between New York and Barcelona and instead of using two of the biggest sporting teams on the planet (the Yankees and FC Barcelona), the officials have decided on a yacht race.
Of course the sponsors probably had something to do with the choices of boat and start and end point. Sponsored by Spanish beer brand, Estrella Damm an Open60 will compete against the newly christened W Hotels. Crewed by three-man teams of one U.S. and two Spanish sailors per boat, the ships will depart New York City during the second week of April 2010, reaching Barcelona’s Port between the 20th and 30th of April.
To be fair, this kind of event is a great way to focus attention on specific markets and audiences at a relatively low cost. The boats are already built, the infrastructure required is relatively low, so as a branded entertainment mechanism, the event should help the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona (FNOB), and the New York Sports Commission achieve their goals. The FNOB initiative will be complemented by a full range of cultural and sporting activities, including a full educational program for primary and secondary students from Barcelona and New York, led by the FNOB and supported by the American School of Barcelona.
Certainly, offshore sailing of this kind provides a great platform for delivering a wide variety of goals which are not always obvious. It’s for that reason, and because the organisers aren’t using stupid phrases like “the F1 of sailing” that the sponsors will probably get a decent ROI for their money.