One of the top tips for rights holders at the World Yacht Racing Forum last December was that sponsorhip money was being ‘left on the table’ by offering large title packages with all kinds of exposure and activation lumped together. Several speakers at the forum in Monaco suggested that it might be more efficient, and easier to provide value if benefits were unbundled and sold separately.
This week, the organisers of Cowes Week have announced that they will offer smaller sponsorship packages alongside the title sponsorship deal to attract companies with different objectives. Whether the new initiatives are enough to convince sponsors of the value of Cowes Week remains to be seen.
The event is not a premium sponsorship property like Manchester United or the Olympics, but neither is it a new, unproved concept. The market for the event is niche and regionally specific, but nevertheless a desirable audience that should fit well with some brands.
To some though, Cowes Week has rested a little too much on it’s laurels and become complacent. A phrase like “The world’s oldest regatta” gives a very different perception to a phrase like “The world’s greatest regatta”. The new measures are perhaps a signal that the event is looking to change in order to compete with alternatives that didn’t exist before like a UK round of the Louis Vuitton Trophy or events that have grown in stature and popularity, like the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Michelle Warner, Sales & Marketing Director for Cowes Week Limited said:
“We wanted to offer potential sponsors a wider and more flexible range of options. The new suite of sponsorship packages also provides potential headline sponsors with an opportunity to test the water with the event in what continues to be a challenging market”.
Felicity Croft, Account Director at sports sponsorship agency Octagon adds:
“The new sponsorship programmes offer some great opportunities for partners in this challenging environment. Sponsorship remains at the forefront of a brand’s marketing strategy with a key focus on measurement and returns. The packages offer a unique opportunity for brands to create bespoke programmes with a premium property that will ensure targets are exceeded and objectives are met.”
Sponsorship is only half the picture though. When compared with the investment that some local authorities around the world are making to attract elite sailing events to their towns and regions, Cowes seems to be lagging behind. The Extreme Sailing Series Europe (previously the iShares Cup) has provided Cowes Week with increased exposure in recent years, delivering spectators and much needed modernisation, however the series is yet to confirm whether Cowes Week will be the venue for the 2010 UK round.