Ken Read’s Sailing Sponsorship Advice

Published on March 4th, 2014

The website has posted Ken Read’s Keynote at the World Yacht Racing Forum (Dec. 10-11, 2013), which shared his experience in raising sponsorship for his Volvo Ocean Race campaigns and what sailors and events still have to learn. Here are Ken’s comments…

Clearly this is a big part of what we are talking about at this event. Sponsorship is critical at the elite level of our sport. There is no doubt in my mind that sponsorship is far more prevalent here in Europe than it is in the United States. When I did the Volvo Ocean race we stopped in Lorient and the people of Lorient asked me to do a focused talk to a bunch of industry people. I talked about my sponsorship experience and people were blown away. In France, businesses are calling the talented sailors and asking the talented sailors if they can sponsor their boats. That’s unheard of in my part of the world.

Let me explain my sponsorship story. Here’s my theory. I have a really novel idea. I’m going to get sponsorship. You meet somebody. You get into the marketing department and you meet these guys (points to slide showing a bunch of young people in suits). They are all enthusiastic, great presentation and as soon as you walk out they are thinking about how to screw you. There is not a prayer in hell, that going through the normal channels, at least in North America, that you are EVER going to get sponsorship. So I tell young people all the time – don’t even bother.

You’re wasting your time.

What your sponsorship means for these people (the marketing team) is more work. And they don’t get paid extra. They might have to go around the world with a Volvo race – away from their families – they’re out of their comfort zone. The best way to get sponsorship is to find ‘This Guy’(or his female counterpart). You need to go straight to the boss. The boss can make the decision. The Boss can tell the marketing team ‘you’re going to do the work’. But if the marketing team is left to its own druthers, they aren’t going to do it.

So here is my arch-enemy number one. Before we found Berg Propulsion in the last Volvo Race, I was really close with Thomson Reuters for quite a big package. Puma had made it clear that they wanted a second sponsor – they didn’t want to foot the whole bill this time, so I had some good ins with Thomson Reuters and it came down to me versus Mike Weir. I hate Mike Weir. I don’t even know the guy. He’s a good golfer, won the masters, left handed. I hate Mike Weir. He cost me a lot of money.

It came down to a safety net for Thomson Reuters. The nice, easy decision. Let’s go with golf, we know it, the CEO is a golfer, so we can sponsor this golfer or this crazy, out of the box, Volvo idea – and go around the world and go to all these different continents and try to create a global reach in this ‘brand new sport’. Which would you rather do? Mike Weir. They take Mike Weir. Did I mention how much I dislike Mike Weir? – Read on

comment banner

Tags: , ,

Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.