I remember a time when 12 metre yachts, with long sleek hulls and off-white sails raced side by side and provided both action for spectators and photographers. Actually, I don’t need to remember too far back, because events like the Panerai British Classic Week recreate such events in a way that allows for those of us on the fringes of the Facebook generation to indulge in nostalgia.
As I watched several 12 metre yachts race off Cowes last week, part of a 72 boat fleet for the Panerai Challenge, I wondered if 72 foot catamarans with wing-sails will ever be considered ‘classics’. Will owners cherish the boats that win the future America’s Cup events, or will they be disposable – consigned to huge carbon fibre rubbish heaps? Only time will tell.
Classic yachts are owned and raced by a certain kind of person. Chances are that someone who owns or sails on a classic yacht is also an owner of a classic car or even plane. Chances are they are more likely to be into luxury timepieces (what the Facebook Generation might call watches) – something a little bit eclectic – certainly not mass-market.
So while the organisers of the ‘New Deal’ America’s Cup chase TV ratings and woo brands who have multi-million dollar budgets to promote to ‘every sports fan in the world’, brands who are quite happy to engage with a small, niche, well identified audience of customers and fans, use the wide variety of sailing to deliver memorable experiences.
Panerai is not your average watch brand. The ‘Paneristi’ (as Panerai enthusiasts call themselves) are proud to admit that they are different. The official website of the Paneristi says:
…Panerai will never appeal to all, there is little likelihood of them hitting the mainstream and becoming victims of their own success. Panerai package their watches with an attention to detail that is sorely lacking in other brands. The excellent wooden cases, choices of straps, documentation including COSC certificates, all the little extras add up to a very attractive package. So this is why we like Panerai. History, design, a broad and thoughtful range, and a little bit of exclusivity from a watch that you don’t see on every street corner.
So the Panerai British Classic Week is another example of how good sponsorship is about finding the right match between brand and audience.
It doesn’t matter if the crowds are small. It doesn’t matter if it is elitist. It doesn’t matter if there is no television coverage or live streaming to the internet. It doesn’t matter if no-one tweets. Rather than panic and cheapen the event to try and attract bigger numbers, the idea is to be comfortable with quality over quantity and be true to the values of both sponsoring brand and event.
The Volvo Ocean Race also has a long heritage, and this year, organisers will pay tribute to that heritage with the staging of the Volvo Ocean Race Legends Regatta.
CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, Knut Frostad says:
“The Volvo Ocean Race has so much heritage and history and that simply must not be lost. The history of the event underpins every strategy we have for the modern race. It will be fantastic to see a historic fleet of boats lining up in Alicante alongside the Volvo Open 70s, and we look forward to welcoming the past competitors and hearing the stories they have to tell.
This attitude is in stark contrast to the tack that organisers of the America’s Cup have taken. The most historic sailing trophy of all is locking all nostalgia in a drawer and labeling it ‘boring’. Ironically, the America’s Cup World Series is visiting two ports with huge historical maritime significance in Cascais and Plymouth, but DJ´S Nuno Lopes & Mad Mac and The 2 Bears will draw the masses to those ‘gigs’.
In contrast, brands like Panerai are quite happy to embrace the Flintstone generation with their love of classic yachts, classic cars and vintage aeroplanes. By keeping it small and focussed, Panerai can control the experience and make sure it is ‘on-brand’. The result is the continued loyalty of the Paneristi and the development of awareness for the brand amongst a highly desirable group of consumers.
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