Tom Huston – Making the America’s Cup Big Again

Published on August 28th, 2011

Tom Huston, COO, America’s Cup Event AuthorityTom Huston, Chief Operating Officer of the America’s Cup Event Authority, was in San Diego last Thursday to enlighten local city agencies and media on what exactly will be happening when the America’s Cup teams arrive with their AC 45 catamarans to compete in the America’s Cup World Series event on November 12-20.

Here is an excerpt of his presentation:

San Diego is one of the places that have had the honor of hosting the Cup in the past, and we are very excited to be bringing a new, interesting exciting, and fresh chapter to the sport of sailing back to San Diego in November of this year.

Part of what you can expect to see is really the concepts. This is a concept that was born almost about 18 months ago as we were trying to decide how we were going to make the America’s Cup popular with the public once again. Everybody remembers 1983 when Dennis Conner lost the Cup for the first time, and we remember when he won it back, and it has been in the last 20+ years that the Cup has slowly started to leave mainstream consciousness.

So part of our challenge as a marketing organization is how we were going to make the Cup big again. How were we going to make it interesting, not only for the sailing community but also for sports fans in general? How were we going to attract a new, younger audience that is going to want to follow the sport? And even more importantly, how were we going to touch the hearts and minds of young children who are making decisions in terms of what sports are they going to participate in as they go forward in life?

So those are some of the things we took in to account when we put this concept together. And the fruit of that labor is now here with us thanks to the America’s Cup World Series that started in Cascais (Aug. 6-14). So when we come to San Diego in November, it will be our third event, and the first event in the United States. We also recently announced that we will be hosting a 2012 World Series event in Newport, RI. So with the two U.S. cities that have hosted the Cup in the past, along with the new host in San Francisco, we now have this fraternity of host cities together, and we are very excited to be kicking this U.S. activity off this year in San Diego.

The whole concept behind what we are doing is transformation. We are trying to transform a sport to take it into the new era, and we are transforming the viewer experience and excitement level of what this is all about. That happens in many ways. Everything that you will see … none of it is left to chance.

Regarding the broadcasting of the event, we have invested a considerable amount of time and effort, and have contracted with some of the leading experts in broadcast technologies, so that now for the first time we are able to impose live racing graphics on the screen during the broadcast. We don’t have to rely only on the virtual recreation, but you can actually see the race course, the start line, the turning marks… and really get into the race as a lay person. This helps the person who doesn’t know the details of what is going on. It makes the sport more exciting.

The whole idea is to get people to feel like they are part of this, and to make people feel like this is something they can do. These boats are very fast, and they maneuver like a sports car. This is the equivalent of driving a Formula 1 car. The whole feeling is to enable the viewer to get excited about this.

Every single sailor on the boat is microphoned. We have six onboard cameras that are robotically controlled. So we are able to deliver this concept of sailing from the inside out. It is not helicopter shots from wide distances showing the action from the outside in. It puts the viewer on the boat, to give them the feeling of the speed of the boat, and to get them to think that this is a very cool, interesting sport.

Clearly, the target is young. The motivation is speed/action/dynamic, and hopefully this will become a very addictive product for a lot of people going forward.

We have launched a big partnership with YouTube recently, another opportuinity for us to allow people to experience the sport in new ways. YouTube is launching a new product with us called the Quad Player that is going to allow us to provide a user-generated experience so that you can decide which boat you want to listen to, which audio channel you want to listen to, if you want to follow the graphics, if you want to watch the world feed… this all adds another level of what we can do with today’s technology and viewing experience.

We now have a stadium style sport. We are applying all of the techniques people are accustomed to at other sporting events like baseball and football, and applying them to the sport of sailing. We are inside harbors, allowing live spectators, creating resources to help people understand as they watch it on television, all effective tools to communicate the message.

The AC fan experience for the onshore spectators will also be something more special than it has been in the past. In addition to having all the usual fan-festival type of activities, you also have the live race happening right in front of you. So, we will be having live entertainment in terms of live bands, DJs, parties with fantastic food and beverage. There will be experiences that people can do, very Disneyland style, to get the feeling of being on one of the boats. And there is much more in the works that will be announced soon.


Event details at America’s Cup website and Sailing Events Authority San Diego.


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