LV Trophy Teams Need to Engage Fans. 7

f-barmy-armyThe first edition of the Louis Vuitton Trophy is almost here. Eight teams will compete in Nice from the 7th to the 22nd of November, but will anyone be watching? In most sports, even B2B sports like golf and Formula 1, sponsors are looking to get their message to a specific audience. Activating sponsorship is easier than ever, with freely available tools that engage communities around the world and deliver content quickly and personally to stakeholders including fans.

The UK based TEAMORIGIN has a video on it’s YouTube page that is aimed at potential sponsors. It’s titled – ‘Value‘. The video runs through a lot of very big numbers including things like “4 billion viewers in 150 countries” which we can only assume come from the 32nd America’s Cup held in Valencia. Even if the number is right (which would mean that 59% of the total world population tuned in), there is no guarantee that sailing will ever see such interest again – especially if the industry doesn’t start to think of those people watching as valued stakeholders.

Obviously sponsors are looking for different things, but a quick survey of the teams competing in the new Louis Vuitton event shows that most are still working on the old “exposure” model of sponsorship and focusing heavily on traditional media that their PR companies understand. No doubt, there will be lots of VIP guests invited down to Nice for some B2B deal making, but the most teams are failing to engage their supporters.

Many people like to throw around the phrase “the F1 of sailing”. Regular readers will know that we think it is a meaningless statement, but for the sake of argument, lets compare how Brawn F1 engage their fan-base versus the teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Series. This is a pretty unscientific poll, we spent a bit of time using ‘Google’ and the team’s own websites to see what each team were doing for supporters. We might have missed some activity, but a fan is only going to look so hard for these things.


The Brawn F1 site is best practise for a modern day sporting team. A fan feels welcome, with one of the main navigation items in the menu being the ‘Fan Wall’. The team also has home-page links to their Twitter feed, Facebook Group and YouTube videos. Sailing brand Henri Lloyd are busy selling merchandise and fans can also sign up for email updates, not just “press”.

Looking at the sailing teams, Mascalzone Latino get full marks. The team site is engaging for supporters and provides several platforms for fans to interact with the team. The Twitter feed has not been updated since June 28, but at least they have one. The team references their Facebook group from the homepage of their website and are providing regular updates (last post October 22) to their 1884 fans.

BMW ORACLE comes in next. The team’s Facebook group is a little hard to find. The Official group has 180 fans while a similarly named page focussing on the team’s old extreme 40 campaign has 724 fans. The Official group is up to date, with several memebers of the team including COO Stephen Barclay contributing. The team does offer their SLAM gear for purchase off the website and they have been releasing video via YouTube. BMW ORACLE also has a live ticker, which is bespoke.

The team have someone dedicated to this part of the communication strategy and say that they are ramping it up as well as planning events for fans in Nice.

Emirates Team New Zealand surprises us a little bit. We expected a little more. The team does have a Facebook page with 1,484 fans subscribed, however the page was last updated on April 10, 2008. The team used to offer merchandise, however this was provided by Line7. The team does provide wallpapers and a screensaver.

TeamOrigin‘s offer to fans is also surprisingly thin. The team has big names, a great message and potentially an entire nation of followers, yet with 10 days to go, there is nothing available for fans. The “Race for Change” is a concept that is perfectly suited to be activated through social media, yet there seems to be a mad scramble to change the PR culture from gaining collumn inches in newspapers to building relationships with a community. It’s coming we’re told.

Sailing has always been a B2B sport. The brands on the sails and hulls of boats are, for the most part, trying to influence decision makers who make purchasing or investment decisions at a corporate level. Activation of sponsorship with this mindset has traditionally been around hospitality, with a bit of TV and newspaper exposure a bonus, but marketing directors are becoming more savvy. It’s not just companies like Dell and Honda that are using Twitter for business. Sponsors connected directly to the teams are using Twitter; like The Carbon Trust and Louis Vuitton.

The Louis Vuitton Trophy is an unknown, unproven event. Even with the brand might of the presenting sponsor, the series will need to justify its existence by producing figures that make it worthwhile to make the large investments. TV numbers that count the number of households, or press numbers that use circulation are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Smart marketing people are counting real, measurable numbers like page views, unique visitors, followers, fans, retweets, comments, ratings, subscriptions and sales.

  • There are certain PR companies in sailing that don't have a clue, yet their clients keep paying them. You'd think Sir Keith Mills would know better with his experience with the Olympics and having Charles Dunstone as a mate – carphone warehouse are all over this stuff. PR people need to innovate or die.

  • It's not just sailing. There are a lot of sporting teams and brands that just don't get it yet. I agree with Sara that many PR companies are confused and uneducated about how to do their jobs in the new world order where properties can talk directly to audiences. But brands need to wake up too. Sponsors need to demand that the properties they invest in are doing everything possible to activate.

  • christophebaudry

    Interesting analysis. However as all those teams are focused on America's Cup and consider Louis Vuitton Trophy as an alternative waiting a solution to the justice fights between Alinghi and BMW Oracle, it would have been usefull to also look on all the work done by Alinghi to engage their fans. It seems that they have implemented all activation tools you named.

  • It's a good point Christophe. We have given Alinghi credit in the past both on the site and on our Twitter feed, but this article was focussing purely on the teams entered in the LV Trophy.

    Alinghi have all the media covered including regular image updates to places like TwitPic and a fan-only section called 'Alinghi Friends'.

    There are other teams that are doing all this. Quantum Racing do it extremely well, Dee Caffari scores well and even smaller, unsponsored teams like Mirsky Racing Team are engaging with their fans.

  • rasmusjohnsen

    Thank you for an interesting post. Nice schematic overview even though it's “unscientific” it still in a very clear way addresses key issues – and yes, to me it's also a puzzle why so many still insists in paying someone to basically yell in a giant megaphone.

    Need I remind everyone of the first of the thesis in the Cluetrain Manifesto? Anyway it's “markets are conversations”. If that's true, it means that the key competencies within “smart marketing” is the ability to – well – make conversations …

    The point is: It's not just about being out there – i.e. yes or no. It's about being visible by being open, honest, intelligent, funny … amongst fans and therefore relevant to fans. The challenge everyone faces: You can't buy that it's something YOU are.

  • teamyachting

    Very good analysis.
    As a nautical event and publc relation company based on the french riviera, we are very excited and interested by tis major event. But we don't fell any focus on it.
    Type your comment here.

  • teamyachting

    Very good analysis.
    As a nautical event and publc relation company based on the french riviera, we are very excited and interested by tis major event. But we don't fell any focus on it.
    Type your comment here.