Who Are The Customers of Pro-Sailing?

The following article has been adapted for one I wrote on my blog.

[cleeng_content id=”640481288″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]Some sponsorship just makes sense. Regular readers of this site will know that two of the sports I am involved with are sailing and motorsport. While there are a lot of similarities, there are also some big differences.

Probably the biggest difference between the sport of sailing and motorsport is the fundamental reason for doing it in the first place. While yacht racing exists primarily for its competitors to go sailing, motorsport exists to sell more cars. The phrase “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” comes from a belief that consumers are influenced by a brand’s involvement in the sport and it will influence the purchase decision.

Car manufacturers believe this mantra, even in series like F1, where the car being raced bears no resemblance to the vehicles in the dealer forecourt. On the other hand, it is extremely rare to see manufacturers of sail-boats involved at all in the sport of sailing. When I say manufacturers, I am talking about companies that make the boat itself. Those who make and sell clothes, sails, instruments and other bits and pieces do buy into the concept of racing being a worthwhile platform to promote their wares.

A contrary example was the use of Bavaria yachts in last week’s Match Race Germany. The company has been the official ‘Boat Sponsor’ since 2004 and has signed up for further activity next year.While the competitors were not thrilled with the boats, Bavaria’s customers were able to relate to the high-performance attributes of the product.

Jasmin Müller, Marketing Manager of Bavaria said:

“Match Race Germany is key for our involvement with an international racing series. We are really pleased today that the WMRT enabled one of our guests to actually race on board a Bavaria 35 match with the elite crews”.

One of the excuses given by yacht manufacturers for not backing racing is that their customer base is interested in cruising not racing, but also that they are small companies and “it’s just not the same as F1”. I’ve never really bought into that argument, but couldn’t think of an example that made sense. Now I can.

Abarth is a small car manufacturer. Admittedly part of the much larger Fiat Group, the brand exists for sales and marketing purposes in its own right. The company doesn’t produce many units – far less than some of the production yacht builders, and the sales price of the Abarth products are also less than the price of production boat builders. Nevertheless, Abarth has created a one-make racing series that is now running in Europe and the UK.

The race version of this car is almost identical to the one you can buy from your local Abarth dealer, however the usage of the vehicles is obviously vastly different. The belief by yacht manufacturers that customers are not interested in racing because they are buying their boats for cruising is like saying that Abarth owners are not interested in racing because they are going to use the car to pick up groceries.

While the idea that winning converts to sales is well accepted, it is extremely difficult to measure. Digital technology has made it easier to track conversion for products bought online, but for products like a car, bought at a dealership, the only way to really know what influenced the transaction is to ask the customer. This week, I heard such a story…

As part of the marketing for the Trofeo series we reach out to fans and invite them to be VIP guests for the weekend. All they have to do in return is record their experience on a Flip video camera that we supply. We call it ‘Fan with a Cam‘. After the 2nd round of the championship at Silverstone, I was approached by a fan who had attended the event asking to buy hospitality tickets for his girlfriend. Instead, I offered him the chance to become our ‘Fan with a Cam’ for the latest round at Cadwell Park.

It turns out that the real Abarth fan was his girlfriend. Speaking to her over the weekend she revealed that she had wanted to buy an Abarth 500 for nearly a year, but upon watching them race at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, she left the racetrack with a single purpose – to buy one. And she did. Back at a different racetrack 4 weeks later she was the very proud owner of an Abarth 500. Not just a customer, but a fan.

The story is a nice reminder that marketing does not exist for its own sake. Interactions are not the same as transactions. For all the talk of household TV reach and media value, it’s useless unless someone goes out and makes a buying decision as a result. The sport of sailing needs to remember that.[/cleeng_content]