Is Sponsorship Killing Sailing – A Few More Thoughts.

In late 2012, we published an opinion piece that ruffled a few feathers – which is good….

In particular, some commentators have characterised the editorial piece as being somehow anti-sponsorship or that it suggests sailing doesn’t need sponsorship. exists to promote the sport and the commercial opportunities that it provides, but it also exists to give insight into best practise, long term trends and to act as a watch-dog.

While the title of the piece (Is Sponsorship Killing Sailing?) might be attention seeking, it is framed as a question. The conclusion of the piece is a warning that the sport gives too much away in return for sponsorship dollars.

The ‘rebuttal’ pieces talk directly to the dangers I am worried about. Hundreds of thousands of Australians can probably name Wild Oats XI and they can probably name Investec Loyal, but how many can name Mark Richards? How many can name the Australian skipper of Camper during the last Volvo Ocean Race?

The point of the original article was to argue that the brand exposure achieved by sponsors in sailing is so good that it can dwarf the participants. This might be great for the brands in the short-term, but in the long term, brands would be better to support the sailor’s brands rather than overshadow them.

One of the best examples of how this can be done is Team Sky cycling – everyone knows that Sky is the sponsor, but people also know the names Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and even Chris Froome.

A large percentage of our business is helping sailors, teams and rights holders secure sponsorship for their sailing campaigns. I personally promote the benefits of sponsoring sailing to brands around the world and as a consultant who also works with sports like Motorsport; I know the areas where sailing does it better and where it still needs to improve.

We can all quote the media value figures and fight the corner, but as an industry, we also need to work on what we need to do better and that means addressing some of the harder questions.

We are still not doing enough to build sailors as sports stars.

In the Australasian context I want to work with sponsors that want to put Stu Bannatyne before themselves on a Volvo Ocean Race boat. I want to work with sponsors who understand that promoting Torvar Mirsky will promote their products and services to a desirable audience. I want to work with sponsors who can stand behind an Australian America’s Cup campaign so that Jimmy Spithill, Darren Bundock, Tom Slingsby, Kyle Langford and others don’t have help win the Cup for a database company.

If we are going to tell a story, then we need characters. Those characters should be people – not brands.