What does sponsorship mean for professional sailors? The bottom line is that the less a competitor has to worry about money, the more they can concentrate on training to be better. When that training is full-time on the course that will used for the Olympic games, the advantage is significant. But sponsorship is a two-way street and athletes need to give back to the brands that are investing in them.
Sarah Ayton, one of the original ‘three blondes in a boat’, has today unveiled her bid to become the first British woman to win three successive Olympic gold medals.
With the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games now less than 30 months away, Sarah Ayton has announced her plans to campaign for a third gold in London, in the two person 470 dinghy with her team-mate confirmed as seasoned 470 campaigner Saskia Clark. Their long-awaited news was revealed in conjunction with the announcement that Volvo Car UK will be backing their campaign as part of the Team Volvo for life sponsorship programme in addition to their support from Skandia Team GBR, the British sailing team.
Duncan Forrester, Head of Public Affairs, Events and Sponsorship for Volvo Car UK believes that sailing is the perfect fit for a the brand and that new technology like Social media can be used to activate campaigns for the benefit of athletes, fans and the desired audience.
For Forrester, sailing is an ‘underutlised’ sport, which means that there are less brands competing for the attention of a desirable audience. His audience is a broad one including the Volvo Car dealer network and those in the market to buy a vehicle to tow their boats and the ‘Team for Life’ concept promotes the brand strapline – “There’s more to life than a Volvo, that’s why you drive one.”
Of course Volvo is still known for it’s safety message, no matter how many ‘Life at the Extreme’ positioning statements they make. Supporting the UK’s sailors fits into the ‘caring for people’ aspect of the brand. The sponsorship consists of financial support and transportation and goes a long way to allowing athletes to focus entirely on training and being the best they can be.
Also announced as part of the new-look Team Volvo for life was Sarah Ayton’s husband, windsurfing world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Nick Dempsey. He is basing much of his time in 2010 training in Weymouth with his goal to win the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta in August.
“2012 will come around really quickly and by getting as much practice in Weymouth as possible it will really improve my chances for a successful Olympics.”
Volvo Car UK has backed Paul Goodison to glory since 2005 and will continue to do so as the proud Sheffield lad is aiming to become the cities first double gold medallist in 2012. Paul also happens be Saskia Clark’s partner, with the pair being neighbours to the Sarah and Nick in Weymouth.
“I am really happy to have the backing of Volvo for another Olympic campaign. I want to replicate what I have done in the past by securing gold at the games here in 2012, as well as successfully defend my European and World Laser Championships.”
Volvo Car UK has also pledged to continue their support for leading Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas. Now she is working tirelessly to turn disappointment to success in 2012. Helena has started her 2010 season off well winning a silver media last month at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma. Ben Ainslie is also part of the Team for Life.
Sponsoring brands like Volvo are moving faster on innovating their marketing than the sport of sailing. Some PR companies that specialise in sailing have dismissed social media, or grudgingly adopted it at the request of clients. Duncan Forrester believes that social media is the future of PR, especially for a brand that is focussed on a young, enthusiastic audience.
The new look Team Volvo for life will be inviting the public to become more involved in their campaigns in the build up to London via a new Team Volvo for life website and Facebook page. The Facebook page will feature monthly videos of the sailors including their views, coaching and expert tips, Fans will be encouraged to give their views as well as asking questions directly to the sailors on during their monthly live chats. This is the payback – for sailors to take this kind of support from companies, they will have to give up part of their lives to participate in marketing activities.
The Team For Life campaign is just part of Volvo’s commitment to sailing. The company supports the sport at a grass roots level through backing of the RYA and Optimist regattas, they participate in events like the Round the Island Race and arrange regattas for internal purposes. At the elite level, there is Team For Life and of course the Volvo Ocean Race.
While not directly involved in the Volvo Ocean Race, Volvo Cars UK is already planning to make the most of the race finish in Galway.
The social media part of Team for Life can be accessed via – http://www.facebook.com/VolvoCarsSailing – Photos from yesterday are already there…
Our video from the announcement is below…