America’s Cup Defender Scores Early Victory

Published on August 6th, 2015

At the risk of stating the obvious, the America’s Cup has changed. Previously, the intrigue of the event wasn’t the racing but what occurred before the Match. Design rumors and speed speculation… who would be faster? But now, things are different.

The shift to nearly one-design boats, along with the inclusion of the defender in the first two stages of the challenger eliminations, has watered down the competitive uncertainty. Now, the intrigue of the event isn’t so much about the racing, but instead who is watching the racing.

With all the competition variables modified to attract an audience for the racing, the success of the 35th America’s Cup won’t be on which team triumphs, but if the organizers triumph. Never before has the defender worried more about footfall and Nielsen ratings than defending the America’s Cup.

But during the opening event of the America’s Cup World Series, something even more important than attendance numbers was in play. What mattered most was the opinion of marketing professionals, because for the networks to bite hard on broadcasting the America’s Cup events, sponsors needed to step up… fast.

According to the following report by Matt Boyer of MediaPost, which claims to be the most influential media, marketing and advertising site on the internet, the early review is favorable…

As sports marketers, we’re always in search of the next golden opportunity, platform, emerging sport, etc., for the brands we represent. We methodically dig for the perfect mix of the right league, sport, team, media, fans, etc., for which to give our client’s stamp of approval. And when that rare opportunity comes in that matches the brand, with the right audience, with the right reach – and one with a currently uncluttered landscape – it’s often times a no-brainer to dive right in.

Years ago, we started to see the continued rise of soccer in America. Big brands (Chipotle, Adidas, Continental Tire, etc.) scooped a prime spot and ran with it. It was the perfect mix of the ideal elements of sponsorship – a forthcoming TV deal in the U.S. with MLS, unique hospitality elements, demographics – coupled with the freedom to experiment with outside-the-box campaigns and activations both on-site and online. What was then somewhat an unchartered territory in the U.S. is now one of the most difficult properties to break into and one of the most sought-after.

So, while many of my colleagues ventured to Denver last week to get ready for 2015 MLS All-Star game, I was embarking on a different adventure, one that took me on a voyage across the pond in search of what may become another marketing goldmine. The site – Portsmouth, England – the birthplace of the America’s Cup in 1851 and the home of a 2015 America’s Cup World Series event.

What I found was a nearly untapped, multi-city spectacle (extended both on land and water) that will continue to span across the globe for the next several years and beyond.

High-profile teams, from multiple countries, square off in a circuit for the oldest trophy in sport. At its heart are high-tech catamarans that literally fly across the water, each boat worth millions. A showcase of technology, competition and action culminating in events that captivate sports consumers. Think Formula-1 racing on the water – with all of the elegance, danger and flair for the dramatic.

America’s Cup sailing does have the power to turn the heads of young consumers, while also appealing to a prime demographic of upper income sports/tech fans.

Sailing already has the involvement of high-stakes/celebrity individuals and fans, such as the Royal Family, Oracle Team USA founder and billionaire Larry Ellison, Japan’s Softbank chairman Masayoshi Son and global commodities firm Gunvor Group’s co-founder Torbjorn Tornqvist (to name a few), and each global event presents a showcase opportunity for brands.

I saw firsthand the multiple brand touch points, from on-site consumer engagement, including exclusive hospitality and viewing areas available to the general public, to national TV spots and free on-site concerts and entertainment.

That’s why Louis Vuitton, who has been an America’s Cup sponsor since 1983, recently went all-in with the sport – claiming the title sponsorship of all stages of the competition until 2017. BMW did the same in July, being named global partner of the America’s Cup Event Authority.

On the ground in Portsmouth, for example, the German auto brand caught eyes by utilizing nearly every asset available with multiple activations including a family-friendly “BMW Yacht Club” for the general public to learn about sailing and BMW products.

BMW owners also benefited from an exclusive clubhouse on-site, while brand executives and VIPs received access to the most lavish hospitality offered – the Britannia Club. Here, you could literally mix tea-time with extravagant cocktails in a lounge-like atmosphere (all while listening to the free Carly Rae Jepsen concert just outside the tent).

Perhaps the casual fan wouldn’t know that the America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport, or that our home team – Oracle Team USA – won the 34th America’s Cup, and they will defend their title in 2017. But as America’s Cup begins to take its tour across the globe, complete with World Series events leading up to 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda, savvy marketers, brands and fans are taking a look.

CMOs, the water looks great – who’s jumping in?

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