The protocol governing the 34th America’s Cup contains a few rules that seem to go against the stated goals of developing America’s Cup teams into commercially viable and sustainable businesses. While the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) uses Formula 1 as it’s model when it comes to PR, the mechanism it has settled upon to control the dissemination of information via the internet seems to have more in common with the big American sports like MLB, NBA and NFL. Now, arguably the only commercially based team, Emirates Team New Zealand, is seeking mediation in relation to rules that govern the team’s web communications.
The paragraph in question says:
51.1. By 1 July 2011, Competitors shall use the domain www.americascup.com as their sole online presence. By 1 June 2011, the Event Authority will provide Competitors with as much space as they reasonably require within the website for exclusive use and control of all their content. Furthermore, by 1 July 2011, Competitors that have existing domain names shall redirect all online traffic to www.americascup.com.
For the purposes of this Article 51.1 “online presence” means an internet website, but does not include social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and such other social media as may be advised by the Event Authority from time to time. Refer amendment 8
The intent of this Article is to substantially grow the online audience for the benefit of the Competitors and the Event.
51.2. Article 51.1 does not apply to content that is not linked in any way to the America’s Cup in relation to other (permitted non America’s Cup) events.
The concept of centralising the web presence of America’s Cup teams has some merit. The official site of the New York Yankees, yankees.com redirects to http://mlb.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=NYY. Interestingly, if you look closely at the MLB site, you will notice that it is ‘powered by ORACLE’, which might give a hint as to where the idea came from, but there are some big differences between MLB teams and America’s Cup teams.
Emirates Team New Zealand, and to a lesser degree ORACLE Racing and Artemis Racing are more like Penske Racing than the Yankees. Penske competes in two types of NASCAR series and the Indy Car championship, with occasional forays into the American Le Mans Series too. Expecting a team like Penske Racing to redirect its website to nascar.com for example doesn’t make a lot of sense for its sponsors or its fans.
Similarly, you can’t really imagine UEFA mandating that Manchester United or Real Madrid redirect their URLS to UEFA.com
While Oracle Racing and Artemis Racing have little or no business model, Emirates Team New Zealand rely upon sponsorship to fund their campaign(s). Team managing director Grant Dalton says that one effect of the internet rules is to stifle the ability of commercially funded teams to raise sponsorship, and that affects all commercial teams. He said:
“I would have thought an ACEA objective should be to help teams secure sponsorship, not hinder them. For example we are an established team which has been in continuous operation since the 1987 America’s Cup challenge at Perth. We have a campaign for the Volvo Ocean Race and we are competing in the Extreme Sailing Series. We need to be able to project ourselves to the public as we see fit, not controlled from within someone else’s web site.”
Similarly, Dalton know what anyone who has ever worked in sports marketing knows :
“People follow teams, not events…. people are not fans of the Rugby World Cup… they support the teams within the Rugby World Cup.”
Taken to its extreme, the policy adopted by the ACEA should force individual athletes to forward their URLS to the America’s Cup site too. Why not redirect http://www.russellcoutts.com and http://www.cayardsailing.com/ to the official site too…
If the America’s Cup really wants to be the F1 of sailing, then its should behave like F1. Create a great series site that has top level, useful, relevant information about events, results and series news. Centralise the live timing and scoring, provide some decent event information for fans and allow teams to build their brands on their own sites.
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