The new management of the World Match Racing Tour have a goal to make the series more recognised outside of the sport of sailing. The WMRT has a whole bunch of things going for it that should help that task, after all it is the only annual professional global series that sailing has, with big prize money and some ‘rock-star’ names competing.
In April, the WMRT appointed Fast Track, a member of the Chime Communications Group to promote the new look series to a wider audience. Half way through the season, the job of making the tour more appealing outside of the sailing community has been awarded to Capitalize.
Capitalize worked with Puma during the last Volvo Ocean Race to ‘activate’ the apparel company’s sponsorship but the company works in a wide variety of sports. Their brief is to communicate to key global markets by targeting international news, business, lifestyle, specialist and broadcast media. The company describes itself as being fan centric – something that sailing desperately needs, so it will be interesting to watch how Capitalize apply their BrandFan knowledge.
There seems to be a paradox here though. WMRT want exposure outside of sailing, yet any fanbase that the tour currently has will be fans of match-racing and therefore not just casual spectators. Part of the solution then might be to use word of mouth channels (more fashionably called Social Media in the digital world) to build awareness and then convert to fans.
Indeed the official announcement says that
Capitalize will also manage the Tour’s social media channels and develop digital platforms to engage with fans and bring the thrill of match racing to a growing global audience with live video streaming and behind-the-scenes interviews and news features.
Capitalize have recently been involved with the social media output for cycling team HTC/Columbia who have an impressive 11,000 Twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook fans. Sports marketing people will tell you though that generating fan support for teams is very different to creating interest in a series brand – typically people don’t support the premier league, but the competing teams. HTC Columbia also has the advantage of being backed by large consumer brands, something that the WMRT currently lacks.
The parallels between cycling teams who compete in events like the Tour de France and Match Racing are quite interesting though. In both cases, the team is vitally important, but ultimately pushes the leader to victory as an individual. In sailing the teamwork is more obvious, but the ISAF rankings are awarded to the skippers.
Jim O’Toole, Chief Executive Officer of WMRT, commented on the new appointment:
“The World Match Racing Tour is well established as the World Championship of head-to-head sailing and features the very best sailors year after year. What we are now focusing on is taking the series on to the next phase, by increasing the number of events, enhancing our commercial partnership proposition and increasing our multi media footprint around the world.
“We have set some ambitious goals to develop the series and Capitalize’s expertise in engaging both global media and new fans will be a key component in helping us achieve our objectives. We are looking forward to starting work with Capitalize immediately as we start the build up to the next round in St Moritz, Switzerland which runs from 31 August to 5 September.”
Jonathon Bates, Associate Director at Capitalize said:
“Sailing is one of the few sports to have a truly global footprint and also the genuine scope to increase its profile in both traditional and emerging sailing territories. We’re delighted to be working with the World Match Racing Tour and look forward to helping the series develop its footprint by generating engaging and inspiring media coverage and social media activations around the Tour.”
It is absolutely true that there is an opportunity to present sailing to emerging markets and the WMRT have been leaders in developing events in Korea and Malaysia with an event in China also announced. While having an event in France, the tour does not have events in major sporting markets like the USA, UK or Australia.
We know how we’d do it, but it will be interesting to watch how Capitalize go about their task.