On Your Marks. RLYC Sponsors New Solent Racing Bouy.

Most sailing events don’t have stadiums. This has advantages, like being able to run events anywhere there is a bit of water, and disadvantages, like missing out on ticket revenue and the ability to sell advertising space on hoardings or billboards around the court, track or field. In a world where the sponsorship pie can be cut in ever more specific pieces, the organisers of sailing events have the ability to sell space on racing marks.

It’s an old fashioned way of thinking about advertising, but sponsoring a racing mark has some unique selling points. In the days of GPS plotters, the names of marks are now programmed into many racer’s racing technology increasing the number of times that the sponsor’s name is seen beyond a specific regatta. The name is read out every time a course is read out over the radio and will also appear in any photographs that are taken on the water.

In some cases, like the America’s Cup, sponsorship of racing marks has a much longer legacy, especially if the event is turned into an online game. Thousands of players of games like Virtual Skipper are exposed to bouys sponsored by Louis Vuitton and Alcatel Lucent every day, years after the event took place.

The Royal London Yacht Club (RLYC) obviously believes that naming a mark will bring them increased exposure and awareness. They have announced the signing of a three year contract with Cowes Week Limited (CWL) for the sponsorship of a new seasonal racing mark in the Central Solent.

CWL and the Solent Cruising and Racing Association (SCRA) have drawn up a shortlist of prime positions for new Solent racing marks in order to improve racing. The first of these will be sponsored by the Royal London Yacht Club and is positioned half way between Air Canada and East Knoll buoys at approximately 50˚ 47.67′ N and 01˚17.0′ W and will be known as ‘Royal London’.

Peter Taylor, Chairman of Sailing at the RLYC said:

“We chose the mark immediately to the east of the Bramble Bank as it will be well positioned as a windward mark, away from the main shipping channel and in less tide, when sailing from marks located near to the mainland shore in prevailing southwesterly wind conditions.”

There is a danger though, that sponsorship of this kind becomes noise. One can imagine a radio commentary that is a string of brand names along the lines of, “Hugo Boss leads Artemis around Air Canada headed for Royal London…” The result, something akin to Soccer sponsorship where only 1/3 brands that sponsor the sport can be recalled.