How the America’s Cup intends to improve its commercial appeal

Published on June 10th, 2014

There were a lot of changes to the 34th America’s Cup to improve the event’s commercial appeal. Faster boats, accessible venue, and ground-breaking broadcast tools heightened the excitement and interest, but still did not attract sufficient sponsor support.

Now Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive of Oracle Team USA, is determined to change that, with decisions for the 35th America’s Cup designed to insure it be a commercial as well as visual and competitive success.

So how will Coutts go about baking a better cake? Here’s an excerpt published in BBC News

Timing
The 2013 final was held in September when US sports fans and advertisers were focused on the beginning of the NFL (American football) season. Coutts describes that timing as “crazy” and, after talks with broadcasters, decided that June would be a good time to stage the final. He says the whole event will probably end around the 4 July holiday weekend in the US.

Format
“In the past we’ve run a lot of races when they just haven’t made commercial sense and so you’ve got all that cost and you’re not really getting a return,” Coutts says. Qualifying races have now been shortened and reorganised. The biggest change is for there to be a sequence of qualifying events for the Challengers, at different venues, with only the top four teams advancing to the finals venue. Whereas the challenger series in 2013 spanned nearly two months, the new schedule calls for just 22 days.

Quality teams
Broadcasters and sponsors, of course, want excitement. To deliver that, Coutts is keen to raise the level of the teams entering the next series. “That was one of the things that didn’t go right last time, we didn’t have enough strong teams in the competition,” he says. There is now a stiff entry fee of $3m to vet out all but the most serious campaigns. “We are not going to have dozens of teams entering. But I think if we get six or more strong teams in the competition – you know, really competitive teams – I think that’s going to be really good for the event,” Coutts says.

Location, location, location
The list of venues had included San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and Bermuda, but Coutts told The Associated Press on Monday night (June 9) that one venue had been eliminated, and that he plans to reduce the field to two by the end of June. Who remains? San Diego confirmed they remain on the list, while it is rumored that San Francisco is no longer in the running. Local enthusiasm weighs into the venue decision, but commercial factors are vital too, as Coutts is considering the potential sponsorship and other advantages that local companies can offer.

Time zone
Being further east, Chicago and particularly Bermuda may be able to offer more attractive racing times for European TV viewers and sponsors.

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