America’s Cup Product Launch to Facebook Generation Falls Flat. 10

The Launch!
After months of consulting the world’s best marketing and television experts, BMW-ORACLE delivered an uninspiring and televisually dull product launch of the AC72, a multi-hull catamaran with a fixed wing, that will be the yacht for the next America’s Cup to be held in 2013.

[cleeng_content id=”713736618″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]Russell Coutts told sailing journalists in Valencia that the Defender of the America’s Cup had consulted with experts from Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and NASCAR about how to make the America’s Cup more appealing to a new audience. Yet the event to launch the vision of the cup’s future featured Yacht Club Commodores signing contracts and a rotating 3D model.

Most soap powder product launches are more inspired and inspiring than this unrehearsed, amateur production. BMW-ORACLE have set themselves up as being an organisation that understands the “Facebook generation”, but there is no way that brands like Zynga (Google it) would announce a new global product in such a lacklustre manner.

The Announcements

BMW-ORACLE, the Defender of the America’s Cup and Mascalzone Latino, the Challenger of Record have officially announced the boat to be used for the 34th America’s Cup that will be sailed in 2013. As predicted by many, the chosen yacht for one of sailing’s most recognised events, will be a 72 foot catamaran with a wing sail.

The choice was dictated by requirements that aim to make sailing more commercial, like allowing racing to happen in a wider range of conditions and reducing television delays. It is also designed to keep the America’s Cup at the forefront of sailing technology.

A new nationality based ‘Youth America’s Cup’ would be created in another new class – the AC45 – which would be a one-design boat built by a single manufacturer in New Zealand.

The Reasoning

Challenger of Record boss Vincenzo Onorato put it best, saying that he felt a mismatch between people’s perceptions of the America’s Cup as Formula 1, but he felt recent America’s Cup boats were more like driving a truck. From a commercial point of view, Onorato believes that the multihull platform with a fixed wing is 20% cheaper than the monohull equivalent.

Russell Coutts – BMW-ORACLE CEO, did most of the talking, and made some compelling points unconvincingly. There are good commercial reasons why a multi-hull of this type make sense, including transportation costs and the potential to provide risk taking sailing.

While there may be very good reasons why this platform is the future of the America’s Cup, the audience was asked to accept that reasoning because Coutts said so in the absence of anything more scientific.

The Spin

BMW-ORACLE have taken a big gamble on the future of the America’s Cup at the expense of the current fanbase. coutts was least convincing when he delivered a line that defined those who were in favour of more traditional match racing in monohulls as cavemen and dinosaurs. He said:

We are going after the Facebook generation, not the Flintstone generation.

Comments on the Team’s own facebook page were mixed and polarised. One ‘Fan’ commented:

You are dead to me BMW Oracle. Terrible decision.

While another said:

Bring it! Great choice.

BMW-ORACLE tried to use Twitter to solicit questions from those outside of the room, but these were rephrased before being put to Coutts onstage. If BMW-ORACLE are going to embrace the ‘Facebook Generation’ then they are going to have to learn about social media transparency.

The Road to the Cup

The announcement of the year and boat rule was perhaps not the most controversial news. Coutts, a 3 time winner of the World Match Racing Tour, said that there was no identifiable path for young sailors to the America’s Cup, something that might come as a surprise to sailors like Adam Minoprio and Torvar Mirsky.

Like the world of sailing didn’t have enough classes already, BMW-ORACLE have created a “one-design” boat that will be built by a single manufacturer in New Zealand, something that was not lost on Mitch Booth, Co-creator of the Extreme 40, who was at the event.

The Fallout

It seems that while Russell Coutts claims to have consulted widely, there will inevitably be an impact on other sailing series. The World Sailing Teams Association (WSTA), who have failed to deliver exciting sailing and abandoned their series for Version 5 boats recently, are explicitly named in the new protocol as having significant control over the future management of the cup.

Meanwhile, the World Match Racing Tour, the Audi Med Cup, the Extreme Sailing Series and other sailing events will have to adapt to be relevant in a world where the America’s Cup is offering sailors a chance to be part of their future.

Match Racing may still be important, but Russell Coutts stated today that traditional dial-ups and start sequences that gave one team the advantage were not in the interests of the sport because it was boring to know that 60% of races where the start was won dictated the result. This is like saying that qualifying for pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix should be done away with and all cars should start with an equal opportunity.

The Extreme Sailing Series for Extreme 40s will on the one hand become more interesting because it gives sailors experience in high-performance multihulls, yet by creating a brand new class of almost equal length, BMW-ORACLE has yet again fragmented the sport. This does not seem in keeping with the stated aims of budget constraints.

Coutts said today that series that were somehow based on the America’s Cup might not have very solid business models to begin with. He was confident that the owner-driver one-design class that he designed, the RC44 would be fine.

The Remaining Questions

Russell Coutts dodged almost every question today, from the floor or Twitter. The protocol was distributed seconds before questioning was opened up, giving those present minutes to read and digest a 41 page legal document.

While Coutts says that fans and media and other stakeholders were consulted, there is no evidence given that shows any qualitative results for a preference one way or the other. No polling firms have been named and none of the ‘experts’ from other sports have put their hands up as being consultants to the process.

While the reasoning might be perfectly sound, there is no Boston Consulting Group report or Sports Marketing Surveys document cited. BMW-ORACLE still need to prove, over and above us taking their word for it, that this change is based in solid brand marketing and television research.

The Ranting Conclusion

This was a missed opportunity. While BMW-ORACLE talk about the iPad, they obviously haven’t studied how the Apple product was brought to market. Cam Lewis might be a great proponent of wing propelled multihulls, but he is no Steve Jobs.

History will tell whether the boat rule will benefit the America’s Cup or not, but whatever platform is chosen, it should be given a fighting chance.

No NASCAR executive I know would have put their name to today’s event. If NASCAR had run today’s event, Linkin Park would have opened the show and MTV would have covered it, not Yachting World.

Surely you need to start how you intend to go on. The words of today’s event didn’t match the show and if BMW-ORACLE is to deliver their vision, then the show has to be better produced than this.[/cleeng_content]

  • The BlooSee generation of young sailors is ready for new ways to find and share information about the oceans.

  • Duncan

    Some interesting points. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out. They have a very short learning curve to deliver on the talk before they become a band wagon to jump on for flaying.

  • Rory Ramsden

    Completely agree… It’s not difficult to find example of how a launch should be run. Apple, as you say is one. Any Hollywood blockbuster movie launch another. If Russell really wants to attract a younger audience then he has to engage with that audience in the right way. They obviously don’t have an internet marketing strategist on board. They better get one pretty quick or Fred and Barny will be the only audience they have! 🙂

  • Cseatonbond

    This is why I love this site. No bitching and whinging about how many hulls the boat has, but hard hitting questions about why business decisions about the sport have been taken that will have far reaching effects without any of the supporting documentation that a ‘proper’ brand or sport would provide. Force India F1 can launch a car with more fanfare than BMW-ORACLE launched the boat that is supposed to motivate teenagers away from Farmville to become AC fans. They have to be kidding right? they couldn’t even remember to mic up one of the presenters.

  • Ckmedia

    Perfectly summed up. Real lack-lustre affair and shades of comedy capers at times.
    You might have added that if the objective is to appeal to a wider audience outside that of sailing, it might have been worthwhile ‘planting’ a question that the man in the street might have understood.
    All questions from the floor focused sharply on sailing’s mind-boggling technical aspects.
    Haven’t quite got social media licked yet have they? Much to do.

  • I agree that this was a missed opportunity from a marketing point of view. I hope BMW-ORACLE haven’t pinned their hopes on this catchphrase about the flintstone generation because it insults a huge part of the fanbase for the cup. It would be interesting to see what they say is their target consumer – are they male or female, how old are they, how much to they earn, what other brands to they like, where do they spend their time online. If they really are going after the facebook generation, then the answers to these questions might ultimately mean less revenue for the America’s Cup.

    Loved the reference to Zynga – I can see Cupville now. “Ask your friends to buy you a wingmast” LOL.

  • mono

    To promote yourself over the backs of others is weak and it damages the sport that most like in all its aspects. AC should be a leader and promotor, not a destructor. Sad show.

  • Hipper Than Thou Art

    I can’t comment on the launch as I haven’t been following it, but as a 20-something, Facebook addict, and one who handles my company’s social media, I can say Zynga is retarded. Not only is their code garbage, but when they do something big – e.g. blowing up a truck – they screw that up too. First, they invited a has-been rapper to do it, then somebody also told him to move such that he was blocking the camera when they blew it up. They’re staffed by incompetent morons from the looks of it. How bout you Google that!

    Speaking of which, Google or Apple or even Obama would have been fine examples of product launching in place of Zynga, though it wouldn’t have given you the opportunity to look Hipper Than Thou Art since everyone knows them.

  • So appealing to the Facebook Generation it seems is not as easy as it seems. Rather than lumping them all into the same Marketers demographic pot, they are individuals defined by their networks and associations. While one doesn’t like Zynga, there is no doubt that the company has managed to create products that are not only used daily by millions, but also make a truckload of cash. Apple may be a better example, but that’s not who Coutts said they were going after. If he had said he was going for the iPad generation he would have made a lot more sense, but the soundbite wouldn’t have been as good.

  • Nice to see someone who knows what they are talking about. The reference to Zyga goes back to a comment made at the World Yacht Racing Forum several years ago when some people from the America’s Cup community were introduced to Farmville for the first time. As said below – whatever your opinion of Zynga, they make compelling digital products that do appeal to the mass market. As someone who runs your company’s social media, you will know that the success of many of Zynga’s products is to appeal to females and others who are ignored by those who build for social media geeks.