2010 was a relatively dull year for the world of Yacht Racing. The calendar had no Volvo Ocean Race or Vendee Globe. The America’s Cup in February was a non-event and the world waited for economic conditions to determine how sponsorship would be viewed by boards around the planet.
[cleeng_content id=”973013791″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]The annual yacht racing series like the World Match Racing Tour, Extreme Sailing Series and Audi Med Cup got on with it. If ever there was a year to fill a vacuum left by the America’s Cup 2010 was the year to tempt audiences desperate for sailing content to their brand of yacht racing.
We’ve had a look back at some of the stories that were popular for our readers in 2010. Naturally, topics like Return on Investment (ROI), television and social media were of interest. Stories that looked outside the Yacht Racing bubble were also popular.
JANUARY – Waiting for an America’s Cup
As the new year began, America’s Cup fans sat and weighed up the options of booking travel to Valencia or whether to sit and watch the event on TV. The fight between BMW ORACLE and Alinghi had been long and bitter, and with just weeks to go, the fight was still being fought. The America’s Cup brand was damaged, perhaps irrevocably and sailing as a sport was being affected.
A year later, Jimmy Spithill is talking about ‘Fans we have yet to earn,’ but in January 2010, fans were not high on the priority list for either side.
Sailing sponsorship was still a good deal though. Dee Caffari showed with her Round Britain Record attempt that there are ways to be smart about ‘sweating the asset’ and she delivered a massive ROI for Aviva.
FEBRUARY – Was that it?
It seems like ancient history already, but in February BMW ORACLE won the America’s Cup from Alinghi in Valencia. The Defender left the sale of television rights so late that the stream was given away to anyone who wanted it. Sailing fans couls watch the America’s Cup on YouTube, blogs and pay TV like Eurosport.
Despite millions of dollars being spent on the futuristic boats, the sea-state and wind meant the start was delayed over and over and over again. If selling the America’s Cup had been hard last time, the next time would be nearly impossible.
While there was a moment of anticipation as the two giant multihulls entered into a proper match racing dial-up, it was not much of a sporting contest. The technology of the American Wingsail meant the sporting contest was lost in the arms-race.
MARCH – What now?
The sport had clarity. With BMW ORACLE winning the America’s Cup, the future was clear. There would be pause for thought. The next Cup would be different. Meanwhile, deals were being done – new events were being designed specifically for sponsors objectives. The Nespresso Cup for Wally yachts is a good case in point.
APRIL – Volvo Drives Sailing forwards.
While the banks and financial institutions got nervous about sponsorship in 2010, other brands kept up their commitment. The sport of sailing owes a lot to sponsors like Volvo and Audi who keep investing for the good of all.
The best part about the continued involvement of such brands is that decisions are made on a commercial basis. If it wasn’t working, they wouldn’t keep doing it. This is a vote of confidence that should help others to raise money to compete.
MAY – The Biggest Sailing Story of the Year?
While the billionaires bickered, a 16 year old Australian girl was sailing around the world. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who followed her journey, most wouldn’t have a clue whether she sailed a monohull or a multihull. This was not a speed record or a distance record. Whatever her sporting credentials, Jessica Watson achieved something that professional yacht racing is still trying to work out – she captured the imagination and attention of the mainstream public.
One of the most well reasoned arguments about the impact of such an achievement on the sport was made by Loick Peyron at the World Yacht Racing Forum in December.
Meanwhile, the Volvo Ocean Race got professional about where they would stop for the next edition of their race.
JUNE – Get the Activation Right.
How the public is supposed to work out what is going on when there are at least three races with a variation of the name Round Britain and Ireland, Round the Island etc we don’t know. Add to that a race without a web-presence and you really do wonder why sponsors would look at the sport.
It’s not all about fans though. Different sponsors have different objectives and different audiences. For Hugo Boss, a fashion company, sailing is just one platform to create an experience and put on a show. It doesn’t matter if you are a yacht club or an international brand – attention to detail is key.
JULY – Change is good right?
Just because sailing needs to change, doesn’t mean that every new idea is a good one. The success of projects like Oman Sail show that long term strategies that are executed well create the best long term results.
ISAF has been criticised for not having a plan when it comes to non-Olympic sailing. This is changing. Behind the scenes, the system of ISAF special event status and allocation of World Championships should create a sporting landscape where new events don’t cannibalise the small audience. As much as we love the Extreme 40 – 2010 was too early to have a World Championship.
Meanwhile, Cowes Week’s identity crisis continues. Caught between sporting event and social scene, the regatta that is trying to be everything to everyone but really just for competing sailors. It meanders on.
AUGUST – Writing on the Wall
Skandia is another sponsor that the sport of sailing owes a lot to. Not only do they continue to invest in yacht racing, but as a professional, commercial operation they have an attention to detail that is often lacking.
Meanwhile, monohull America’s Cup boats were killed off before the official announcement by BMW ORACLE. The planned Louis Viutton Trophy event in Hong Kong was cancelled in the lead up to one of the most anticpated press conferences for some time.
SEPTEMBER – The Rise of the Facebook Generation.
At the beginning of September, we knew that BMW ORACLE would make some big announcements about the future of the America’s Cup. The scuttlebutt was flying. Leaks and counterleaks were swirling around the internet.
The new Defender had been working with ‘experts’ to create a New Deal America’s Cup that television executives would fall over themselves to bid for. Such was the power of the faceless TV people that the format of the America’s Cup would have to fundamentally change.
The ‘announcement’ was staged in a grand venue, but this was not a confident relaunch presentation of the biggest brand in the sport of sailing. Like much of the communications out of BMW ORACLE, the message was scripted like a news bulletin and Russell Coutts delivered the quote of 2010:
We are going after the Facebook Generation not the Flintstone Generation.
Later in September, the Facebook generation’s pin-up boy was promoting a film about sailing, but it was a missed opportunity.
OCTOBER – The Dust Settles on the New Deal
So the Defender had set out their America’s Cup stall. The new deal was announced to the world. There were no venues yet and the game had changed. The new platform favoured the Defender, just as the America’s Cup has always favoured the defender. The challengers, who had been part of the most transparent process ever, considered their options.
TEAMORIGIN opted out. The team which had been built on the known foundations of the America’s Cup – match racing in monohulls now had to start again. Is it enough to compete? Sir Keith Mills made the call that if there is no chance of winning, there is no point in taking part.
October also saw the appointment of Richard Worth to the America’s Cup Event Authority. His credentials from the world of football. Richard’s answers to our 8 questions about the business of Yacht Racing will surprise you.
NOVEMBER – Do we get Digital really?
The influence of digital media on the sport of sailing increases. While those at the America’s Cup are looking to Social Media to solve their communication problems, the industry is naive and backwards when it comes to some digital marketing fundamentals.
For instance – how many agencies, PR or marketing, that work for yacht racing brands, understand Search Engine Optimisation? Our top viewed article of November owes more to considered application of SEO principles than it does to the significance of the announcement.
DECEMBER – Naval Gazing
As the Northern Hemisphere freezes, the Great and the Good of the Yacht Racing Industry gather to discuss the big issues facing the sport at the World Yacht Racing Forum. This year, the conference was held in Estoril, Portugal while sailing got front page news.
Oprah Winfrey and Russell Crowe went for a potter around Sydney Harbour while the Sport of sailing pondered how to get to a mainstream audience.
It is easy to fall into a trap of lumping the sport all together as a single entity, but parts of the sport are light years ahead of the rest. The Moth class is one of the most web-savvy groups in the sport. We don’t normally write about non-business related issues, but our chat with Simon Payne, previewing the 2011 Moth Worlds bounced around Moth related websites and in several days was read by more people than any other article of 2010.
Tomorrow we’ll publish our top stories for 2010 as a whole. As the year goes on, some stories continue to be found and read and shared. Some are the same as above, but some others are not in this list.
From all of the Pilote Media and Yachtsponsorship.com team – have a very happy new year ![/cleeng_content]