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The J P Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race is perhaps the most important sailing event in the UK. Certainly the strapline – ‘Britain’s Favourite Yacht Race’ can be justified based on the huge numbers of competitors who take part each year. In 2010, over 16,000 people were on the water in yachts ranging from over 100 ft to 3 person dinghies, but 1 competitor drew more attention than others.
On Friday, the day before the race, we sat down with Roger Thompson, Head of JP Morgan Asset Management in the UK to talk about the company’s title sponsorship of the event and return on investment. Since that interview, the race has received a lot more coverage than it otherwise might have and the debate about the impact of that coverage will go on for a while yet. The old adage of ‘all publicity is good publicity’ probably holds true, as many of the media outlets that focused on the participation of BP CEO Tony Hayward would not have otherwise run any story at all.
Like many firms that sponsor sailing, JP Morgan are not too concerned about mass-market coverage. The company began its partnership with the Island Sailing Club 6 years ago and until that time the Round the Island Race had never been sponsored before. Sailing fits with the JP Morgan brand – associations of teamwork, a clean image and of course an overlap between participants and the audience that the company wants to reach.
Although Thompson is from Gosport and is a self-confessed sailing fan, he says that the sponsorship opportunity was brought to him by his marketing department and the investment makes sense despite his personal interest in the sport. He’s convinced that the company gets a return on investment from the partnership, but admits that it’s hard to measure.
As well as the JP Morgan Asset Management logo being stuck to the bow of over 1700 yachts in the Solent, and other visual display benefits of title sponsorship, the event allows the company to engage in internal and external relationship building. In 2010, 28 matched Beneteau 40.7 yachts were entered by the company creating a race within a race for employees, partners and clients. Spaces on the boats were tied to internal charity initiatives for the company’s official charity the Ellen McArthur Trust.
The charity angle also drives much of the publicity surrounding the event, with sailing celebrities and other ambassadors taking part throughout the weekend. In 2010, the race had four official charities – Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, Ellen McArthur Trust and Prostate UK. JP Morgan hope to raise £1 Million by 2012 which is something that will not go unnoticed by those who matter and contributes to the long term value of the company’s support of the race.
As well as the Round the Island Race, JP Morgan also sponsor British Olympic champion Ben Ainslie. Ainslie competed on Saturday as an ambassador not just for JP Morgan, but also the Princes Trust alongside Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry. The company has backed grass-roots sailing, the Winter Series and also supported an extreme 40 campaign, but sailing is not the only sport where JP Morgan are using sponsorship as a promotional tool.
The J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series was recently announced – a new Friday evening summer 7s series, to take place in July and August and be broadcast live and exclusively on ESPN. The innovative tournament, which will involve all 12 Premiership Rugby clubs, is designed to attract a new audience to the game and create a thrilling new opportunity for existing rugby fans to watch their favourite clubs play during the summer.
Thompson said at the launch of that campaign in early June:
“The Premiership Rugby Sevens is a hugely exciting development for rugby in the UK. We’re delighted to be at the forefront of innovation in sport with Premiership Rugby. It’s intelligent, fast and furious – a tremendous game to watch. We intend to do all we can to open up rugby sevens to as wide an audience as possible. We are delighted that ESPN will attract an even broader audience to J.P. Morgan Asset Management. As the structure of our industry changes it is vital that we continue to adapt our strategy and find new ways to engage with our customers.”
TV is also part of the Round the Island Race. After the opportunistic stories have died down, the brand will be able to promote the stories that matter most to them from the Round the Island Race in two 30 minute documentaries to be shown on Channel 4 later in the year.
Photo by Mark Lloyd