Rick Tomlinson Photography / www.rick-tomlinson.com

World Yacht Racing Forum sets sail

Gathering of the clans in Gothenberg

Tuesday December 11th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Sweden

The fifth edition of the World Yacht Racing Forum started this morning in Gothenburg, Sweden. Over 250 delegates from all over the world attended the presentations, collected precious information and met the industry’s key actors during the networking breaks.

Most of today’s sessions focused on sponsorship, and were aimed at bettering the relationship between sailors, events or teams and their commercial backers.

How can sponsors ensure brand activation? What are the best ways to promote the sport of sailing? How can our sport generate an income? What should a sponsorship proposal contain? Those were some of the questions debated by today’s panellists.

“Sailing sponsorship, and sponsorship in general, should be envisioned in a long term perspective”, said Sven Österberg, General Manager, Volvo Event Management Sweden. “And it is essential to plan a long time ahead; at least 1 – 2 years.”

Leslie Greenhalgh, Marketing Director, Open Sports Management, spoke about her personal experience with Skandia Team GBR, and disclosed some of the key elements of a successful partnership: “It was really important to get immersed alongside the partner in order to understand their needs and objectives. To summarise, it was important to allocate time!”

Greenhalgh, on the other hand, said she has witnessed several projects which don’t provide enough return to their partners. “This is one reason why some brands have left the sport of sailing. In fact, the hard work begins the day when you sign your contract.”

“The market is changing”, insisted Mark Turner, Executive Chairman, OC Sport. “Today’s potential is in the so called emerging countries; India, China, Brasil... In fact we should rather call them fast growing countries; we are the ones stagnating. In order to guarantee the success of projects in those new markets, we must ensure that new talent emerges. Today’s crewmembers will be tomorrow’s stars. It will take time but it is essential to develop tomorrow’s talents.”

Some interesting sessions focused on the revenue streams that can be generated through the sport of sailing. Media visibility, public participation and brand activation are amongst the obvious answers, whilst TV doesn’t seem to be. “All sports struggle to sell TV rights, and sailing is virtually impossible to sell”, commented Dominique Curchod (Curchod Communications). “The revenue therefore lies in a free distribution, and the visibility associated to it.”

“The sailing industry has an obsession with television”, added Richard Moore, CEO, Capitalize. “Does sailing have a strong appeal to a wide audience on TV? The answer is no.”

Many of today’s speakers highlighted the fact that the sport needs more creativity to appeal to a wider audience. New media and social networks are at the heart of the sports development; they will be discussed during tomorrow’s sessions.

Richard Brisius, CEO, Atlant Ocean Racing, concluded day one by saying: “Sometimes, we don’t believe enough in the sport of sailing. But the fact is, it’s a wonderful sport, with great values, that can provide a lot to its partners.”

Held in parallel to the Forum, the Yacht Racing Design & Technology Symposium gave the industry’s more technically oriented participants the opportunity to discuss the new Volvo 65 One Design, debate what sailing can learn from the aeronautics industry, discuss model testing and project planning for high performance yachts.

The sessions went long and lively, with a full room of influential designers, builders, rule-makers and owners including Merf Owen, Thomas Ricard, Jeremy Elliott, Stan Honey, Yann Perfornnis, Pat Shaughnessy, Marcel Muller, Bruno Dubois, Juan Kouyoumdjian, Bill Tripp, Ian Walker and many more. A summary of the Symposium’s debates and conclusions will be available on Thursday.

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