An interesting letter today (October 13) in Scuttlebutt from Dr. Karl Urtz about the sponsorship of the America’s Cup and the absence of sponsorship logos on Alinghi 5.
The Swiss newspaper “Tages-Anzeiger” quotes a leading Swiss PR expert as saying that both the economic crisis and the legal disputes make it extremely difficult for a sponsor to evaluate the risks versus the success of a promotion campaign at this stage.
Certainly economic conditions are tough, but the risks of sponsoring Alignhi in the 33rd America’s Cup make things even worse. Were we in the lucky position of having a large corporate who wanted to use sailing as a platform to promote their brand, the 33rd America’s Cup would not even make our Top 10 places to invest in sailing.
Here are some of the reasons why – in no particular order.
As regular readers will know, the market in which the event is taking place has a huge impact on securing sponsorship budget. Not only does the venue affect activation at the event, including entertainment of guests, but it also determines the crowd numbers and has an impact on live coverage timings. That there is still a question mark over where the event will take place would deter many Marketing Directors from sponsoring the event.
To our knowledge, Alinghi and ACM are still trying to shop the TV rights for the 33rd America’s Cup. If the event happens in RAK, then the majority of the audience for the Cup will be on TV (ignoring internet streaming for now). The organisers of the America’s Cup have been given the dates by the New York Courts, which means that they can’t place the event in a quiet part of the global sporting calendar. The event will clash with the NFL superbowl and the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. A sponsorship director would need to take a big punt that anyone will be watching.
Both teams involved in AC33 have had some pretty bad publicity. Whoever you think is right or wrong – the associations that are usually attributed to sport have been sullied by the acrimonious nature in which this event has been handled. Words and phrases like unsportsmanlike, Machiavellian, greed, cheating, tawdry and dereliction of duty have been used to describe various parties. What brand would want to be associated with these perceptions?
The 33rd America’s Cup may be a great event. Certainly, the boats are spectacular and there will be a heightened sense of ‘freak-show’ factor. The America’s Cup brand is (was?) the most valuable in the sport of sailing, but even hundreds of years of tradition may not be enough to overshadow the mongrel competition that will take place in February.
The America’s Cup can be a commercial event. AC32 showed that the event could work with sponsorship, but it would be a brave brand indeed that would take such a punt on AC33 in the current climate.
So what would make it into our Top 10 sponsorable sailing properties? We might tell you tomorrow, but feel free to make suggestions below using the comments.