The World Match Racing Tour has begun its 2011 season with Match Race France in Marseilles. Having visited in 2009, we returned to see how the event stacked up against the statements of vision of the tour and against other world class events.
To make comparison easier, we are developing a scorecard that we plan to use for events visited in 2011 and beyond. Areas that will be measured include – media output, marketing, hospitality options, fan experience, management & logistics and an overall score.
The success of an event like Match Race France has to be measured differently from different points of view. The experience of a fan with access to high speed internet is very different to one who travels to watch the event live. In 2011, that was even more so.
You should have been here yesterday – but here’s one I prepared earlier.
One of the stated reasons that the America’s Cup has changed its format is to allow for an event that can be broadcast by live TV without missing its window. If the breeze is too light or too strong, then racing can’t take place.
Faced with the prospect of a 45 knot Mistral wind in Marseille on the final Sunday, the race committee decided to accelerate the program for Match Race France. This meant that by Friday night, Semi-Finals were already underway. By Saturday night, after a long day, the final was decided.
On Sunday, the wind did indeed reach speeds that would have made racing almost impossible for anything but a windsurfer. The Mistral reached speeds that would have been way outside the wind-range specified for the new America’s Cup boats and even if the competitors had braved the seas – the umpire and media boats would not have been able to operate.
So the race committee got a result, but the prize was awarded 24 hours earlier than advertised. Fine for those watching via computer screen, but not so good for anyone who had planned to see racing on Sunday. Had the event been ticketed, there would be plenty of refunds to issue.
In the end, for an event like Match Race France, it doesn’t matter much because very few people turn up to watch anyway.
The Greatest Unwatched Show on Earth.
Had there been tickets for the Saturday at Match Race France, fans would have received more than their money’s worth. The day featured semi-finals, a sponsor race and the finals as well as the prize giving ceremony. The hastily arranged final even included two French sailors. But despite banners on the side of the road and posters in shop windows, spectators have to really want to watch Match Race France.
The event website invites the general public to visit, but the Yacht Club base of the event is tucked away from the road and once the boats leave for the races, the club is almost deserted.
Watching from the water is the only way to really follow the action, but getting onto a boat can be a mission (even for media).
If you do get onto the water, then you have to be a match racing expert to follow what is going on. While the Internet audience get real-time commentary, fans on the shore, or on a boat, have no elegant way of knowing what is happening. You can tune into the live-blog or tweet stream via a smart-phone, but that’s is not really recommended for anyone visiting from outside France unless they want to face hideous data roaming bills.
This got us thinking about radio – which is something Le Mans has been using to keep fans informed for years. It’s an overlooked technology – and something we’ll return to in a different article.
I Want My IPTV
The World Match Racing Tour is investing heavily in media. Much of the action from Match Race France was streamed live via the internet, complete with live commentary from on and off the water. Alongside the video coverage was the live text blog, Twitter updates and other social media.
A global fan, with a fast connection, an HDMI lead, a big screen TV or perhaps a Roku Box, would have had a better spectator experience than someone who had made the journey for the event. Given the lack of event atmosphere, there is no benefit to actually being there.
At some point on Saturday, the live blog was being viewed by about 250 people. We don’t have any numbers yet on the live streaming, but even if there were 150 people watching, it was about 100 more than were watching from the shores of Plage de la Pointe Rouge in Marseille.
This mix of digital fans versus physical fans has an impact on the ROI of the event. If local sponsors and partners have signed up knowing that they may gain awareness of people watching via computer on the other side of the world in Malaysia, then that’s great. But if they have signed up because they are expecting an upturn in hotel room nights, inbound flights or local restaurant trade then Match Race France is not delivering.
Of course there is a small influx of athletes, officials and media, but this is not enough to raise sponsorship on the back of.
One World Tour – Some Not so World Class Events.
It’s important to remember that the history of the World Match Racing Tour has been to bring together existing, separate events under an umbrella brand. The future vision of the World Match Racing tour is to create a world class, global sporting event that can deliver to all stakeholders – including sponsors, athletes, media and fans.
It would be a good bet that Match Race France is not one of the events that WMRT is using as a model for future host ports or promoters of World Match Racing Tour slots.
While the best sailors on the 2011 tour provided great racing action, the race officials did a fantastic job of making hard decisions to make the most of the weather and Red Handed TV’s new lineup delivered a polished product to online fans – the event doesn’t cater very well for anyone who turns up expecting to experience a World Tour event.
Just as F1 has a couple of events (fewer each year) who are there for legacy reasons, the WMRT in 2011 still has some events that have their place on the tour for historical reasons. As new events are announced, and modeled along the lines of Match Cup Sweden or the Monsoon Cup, events like Match Race France will have to improve significantly to maintain their spot on the WMRT calendar.
Scoring takes account of over 40 scoring items in 5 groups, from the point of view of different stakeholders.
- Marketing – 1.8/5
- Visiting Fan Experience – 0.8/5
- Remote Fan Experience – 3.2/5
- VIP Experience – 2.3/5
- Other Factors – 2.5/5
Overall – 2.1/5