iShares Cup Looking for New Title Sponsor for 2010.

a-ishares-octWe’ve held up the iShares Cup as one of the great examples of how the sport can be shaped into a platform to deliver real results. As well as providing a great return for sponsors, the Extreme 40 European series has brought the sport to a wider audience and provided economic benefit for the venues hosting the events.

[cleeng_content id=”923691058″ description=”Our archives are available as a premium service, but you can read this article now for just 0.99″ price=”0.99″ referral=”0.1″]OC Events, the company that organises the Extreme 40 series in Europe has officially announced that title sponsor of the event, iShares will not be continuing their backing in 2010. Nevertheless, the series will be back next year, with negotiations underway for a replacement for iShares.

iShares signed a two year renewal at the beginning of this year, a time when banks and financial institutions were under extreme pressue to justify their sponsorship decisions. Unlike many sponsorships which rely on a connection between senior executives and the sport, iShares had no emotional attachment to sailing and so were able to show that the investment in the iShares Cup was purely commercial.  The deal included a 10 day window exit clause following the final event of the season and the aquistion of iShares from Barclays by BlackRock Inc is cited as the reason for the company taking the break option.

Rick Andrews, head of iShares marketing, Europe, commented:

“With a change in company ownership of iShares coming on 1st December, we are unable to commit to the sponsorship of this event in 2010, and we have had to use a break clause in our 2 year contract with OC Events.”

iShares success may impact on OC Event’s mission to find a replacement. The company were partners in the event’s formation, influencing the markets that the series visited and creating the platform to achieve their specific objectives. iShares will benefit from the title sponsorship for a while to come, just as Skandia still benefits from their long term backing of Cowes Week. Until a replacement sponsor is announced, one imagines that it will be easier to refer to the event as the iShares Cup than the Extreme Sailing Series Europe. Rick Andrews doesn’t think it will take long for someone to step up and replace them as title sponsor:

“The iShares Cup has been a phenomenal success for iShares and it is with much sadness that we have been obliged to make this decision. Client response from surveys has been phenomenal. They are just absolutely blown away by lots of different elements. However, we are confident that such an outstanding property will not be on the market for long – the value for money, the exceptional client experience and the return on investment from this property have really helped propel iShares forward, and I am sure that OC Events will be able to capitalise on our experience with a new partner shortly.”

One imagines that Mark Turner, CEO of OC Group, one of the sport’s most commercially savvy operators will have had some contingency for this outcome. He said in a statement:

“Disappointing of course, but this is the world of commercial sponsorship – the Extreme Sailing Series concept will continue to be developed in Europe next year, along with all the stakeholders that have shared the success of 2009 – teams, sponsors and host venues. We have built up a benchmark sailing sports entertainment product, at the highest sporting level, providing excellent returns for all concerned. Fortunately the event now has many stakeholders and many different revenue streams, so while we will obviously bring in a new title sponsor for 2010, things are very different to 2007 when the title sponsor represented nearly all the income. We have team sponsors, host venues and other event partners already contractually committed through as far as 2012. The Extreme Sailing Series will be back in 2010, and we plan for it to be even bigger and better.”

OC Events also announced yesterday that the The Extreme Sailing Series Europe 2010 has confirmed three venues and five teams. The platform has shown that it can provide real value to a title sponsor, though while OC Events have been investing in an innovative product, sponsorship values have been falling steadily throughout 2009. It’s a buyers market, with sports like F1 that were previously out reach for some brands now offering deals previously unheard of.

Perhaps though, Mark Turner is looking to break the mould again for sailing. The sport is dominated by sponsors who use it to market to other organisations (B2B). For sailing to really get visibility amongst a wide audience, it has to be seen as a way that brands can promote their products and services to consumers. Turner said in the official statement:

“…we can also see this as an opportunity to bring in a more consumer focused brand as title sponsor to help us take it to the next level again. We now have the scale and reach to deliver for consumer facing brands as well as those more focused on business to business.”[/cleeng_content]