How Can Sailing Compete For Sponsorship Against Mainstream Sports

Panel 1 of the 2010 World Yacht Racing Forum

Panel Chairman – Richard Moore, CEO, Capitalize. Panel Members – Andrew Pindar OBE, Group Chairman, Team Pindar, Pau Serracanta, Moto GP, Managing Director, Dorna Sports SL, Mark Turner, Executive Chairman, OC Thirdpole and the Extreme Sailing Series.

[cleeng_content id=”441208268″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]This was the first discussion for the 2010 World Yacht Racing Forum. It’s always an interesting subject to compare sports against each other to see the relative values and how they can be used to achieve sponsor’s objectives. Coming just a few weeks after the Future of Sponsorship Conference, also presented by Richard Moore of Capitalize, the session began with some trend numbers.

Global sport sponsorship revenues are coming back. Growth is estimated at about 4% with banks and financial institutions returning to the market. 8 of the top 50 deals were financed from BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and mega-deals are also being done. (Bud Light have done a $200million dollar deal over 6 years with NFL and J.P. Morgan have sponsored Madison Square Garden for $30 a year)

Other trends include more properties trying to raise funds through crowd-sourced sponsorships – lots of small contributions adding up to the total required.

Pau Serracanta from Dorna, the rights-holders and promoters for MotoGP gave a lot of sailing people a lot to think about.

Dorna has a long term contract to deliver the sport. The deal lasts until 2031, which gives sponsors a real sense of longevity and security. Investments can be made for the long term. The long term nature of the deal also guarantees calendar consistency – something that the Sydney Hobart Race enjoys, but other sailing events struggle with.

Having a race start at 2pm on Sunday and knowing that June is the Netherlands, helps planning for sponsors, teams, manufacturers and others to reach consensus on other elements of the sport.

The sport of MotoGP is lucky to have an international star in Valentino Rossi, but finding these stars is not left to luck. One of the insights that Dorna gave to the conference is that the race organisers identified a risk in Australia, which had produced several World Champions and created a fan-base. Without anyone to follow after the retirement of Mick Doohan, Dorna needed to find a new star for Australian fans to support. Through talent scouting, the rights-holder found Casey Stoner.

As MotoGP moves to an Indian round, they are also looking to find local talent for fans to support there. There will be an Indian rider in the 125 class when the event goes to India in 2012.

Sailing on the other hand does not have this structure. Andrew Pindar admits that talent is not organised, but according to Mark Turner from OC Thirdpole, this can be a pro and a con.

Turner says that sailing is flexible, which makes it hard to define the product, though the value to a sponsor can also be customised. The challenge is to convey the structural chaos in a way that makes sense to sponsors. Outside bubble of sailing, the distinction between mono-hull and multi-hull doesn’t makes any sense.

Mark Turner also believes that sailing’s reliance on private funding has held back the sport from a media point of view. His argument is that sailors being paid as mercenaries to win races for wealthy owners have no imperative to communicate with the media. Once they have done their job to win, standing in front of a camera is not important.

Andrew Pindar is convinced that he gets Return on Investment (ROI) from sponsorship of sailing. The sailing sponsorship deal with GAC stemmed from the fact that Pindar had an established sailing programme.

In the Extreme Sailing Series, the presence of the 5th Man VIP spot is an important part of the value that sponsors get. Pindar’s business is about building business relationships and the platforms of the World Match Racing Tour and Extreme Series deliver.

Pindar believes that more could be done to bring sponsors closer together and allow them to do more business. He remembers the Challenge Business Club that Chay Blythe pioneered for the BT challenge and says it produced real results.

Dring questions, the panel discussed some rule of thumb ratios for activation. Richard Moore reminded the audience that sponsorship is not Venture Capital for a sailing project. There is further investment required.

Activation can be 3/1 or 2/1 – that is for every dollar of sponsorship, there is another 2 or 3 to be spent to get the best value and return, but sailing is less expensive to activate than some other sports. Team sponsorships come with a boat which is a great platform to activate – the experiential element means that activation can be lower.

So sailing still needs to be smarter. Pitches need to be customised and people looking for sponsorship need to realise that sponsors have hundreds of choices of clean global sports to choose from.

The money is increasingly out there though, and for those who are professional about their sailing sponsorship campaigns, there are brands who are willing to invest.

More World Yacht Racing Forum Updates.[/cleeng_content]