If you had the money, would you do the Volvo Ocean Race or the next America’s Cup? That’s the kind of question that brands with significant budget and an interest in yacht racing as a promotional platform have to consider when appraising the sailing sponsorship proposals that come over their desks each week.
Of course both events are different and in the end, sponsorship is about aligning individual promotional and communications goals with properties, audiences and markets, but that said – at a macro level, the two events are competing for the same sponsorship money.
While the America’s Cup has taken out a 100% mortgage on its brand equity and bet it on a new format, the Volvo Ocean Race has innovated in more gradual steps, backed by empirical real-world metrics about its audience, media value and return on investment. Brands like ABN AMRO, Ericsson, Telefonica, Puma and Volvo itself have enjoyed huge sponsorship returns in recent editions of the race and host ports are lining up to be a Volvo Ocean Race stopover.
With a year to go, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, Knut Frostad has taken the opportunity to give an update on the state of play.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE ENTRIES
We currently have six boats that are funded and ready for the next event, which is pretty much where we were at this time before the last race. It’s no secret that my ambition was to have more, but the economic downturn has hurt the international sponsor market. In that respect, I’m really pleased because we as an organiser, combined with the teams, have raised more than 210 million euros in commercial sponsorship and rights fees. Compared to any other sporting event in the last 18 months it is substantial.
At least five of the teams are potential winners. I don’t think we have ever had that many in the past. They are all building new boats, have top skippers and people with top experience of this race. It is going to be extremely difficult to pick a winner. There will be no team like Ericsson from the last race, running a two-boat testing programme for a year before the race.
There are four other teams that are very serious about taking part and then there is another group of five that are also working on it. We are focused on bringing more boats to the start line. If we achieve the same number as the last race (eight) then, it would be very, very good. My ambitions are higher than that but we have to be realistic. The market is incredibly tough, whereas for the last race it was possibly the best it had been.
We have clearly capped the cost of winning. You cannot spend 70 million Euros and gain an advantage anymore because you can’t two-boat test, you can’t build two new boats, you can’t make more than 15 sails before the race starts. All these different measures and many others will have a big impact. New teams and sponsors can see they have a better chance of winning the race.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE HOST PORTS
The bidding process for the stopover ports has been a great success and has been completed far sooner than in previous races. As such, there has been less organisational stress and most likely a better product. It’s great to have France back involved – it is a market we really wanted – and likewise for Abu Dhabi. Not only that, I think the sailing challenge is going to be fantastic.
The leg to Abu Dhabi will be an extension of the leg last race to Cochin in India and can only give the sailors more challenges, which is a good thing. And by breaking up the route to Brazil with Auckland will make a big difference. Now there is a full-on Southern Ocean leg. They will enter the Southern Ocean as a pack and it should make for close racing. That’s what we all want and I’m certain with a year to go that it’s what we’re going to get.