BUSINESS: Going where no Open 60 has gone before

Published on April 29th, 2013

A marketing expert who made his fortune creating Air Miles and the Nectar card before leading the campaign to bring the Olympics to London, Mills has now turned his attentions to sailing, after identifying races such as the Vendee Globe and the Barcelona World Race as marketing opportunities which could help grow the IMOCA 60 class around the world.

Last year, he bought the global commercial rights to the Open 60 class, which for years has been driven by the French, describing it as ‘one of the best products’ he had ever worked with.

He then launched Open Sports Management (OSM) as a vehicle to commercialise the sport in the same way that Bernie Ecclestone turned F1 motor-racing into a multi-million pound business.

For years Mills has been a supporter of British solo skipper Alex Thomson, after they sailed together in the Clipper Race in 1998-99 and established a sports marketing business with Thomson to handle his multi-million pound Hugo Boss sponsorship deal.

More recently, he decided to back a British America’s Cup campaign in partnership with his friend Charles Dunstone, the boss of Carphone Warehouse.

But having invested millions in hiring a team of sailors, including Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, and building a new TP52 for training, he pulled the plug when it became clear there was no chance of their campaign being competitive against defenders Oracle.

Mills thinks he has spotted a ‘hard nosed’ business opportunity in sailing and is now formulating two 18 month cycles for the IMOCA 60 boats with one focussing on two handed racing culminating in the Barcelona World Race and the other on solo racing with the Vendee Globe the climax of the cycle.

“The object of the new programme is to take IMOCA racing to parts of the world that have not seen it,” said Mills, a Tottenham Hotspur director.

“The teams and sponsors and media will have a calendar of events they can work with over next four years and take the sport to different parts of the world and attract teams we need to make it succeed. – The Telegraph, read on

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