What’s In a Name or WIAN?

Published on May 23rd, 2016

by David Redfern
I am privileged to have spent a very good portion of my life promoting various yacht races and racing teams worldwide as well as other major international events like being media director of the Rugby World Cup, the the Winter Olympic Games, the International Festival of the Sea – the biggest maritime event ever – and many other sports and events.

It has been a crusade of mine in all that time to educate my staff not to shorten an event to its acronym. A sponsor pays good money to be associated with an event and does not deserve to be reduced to an initial letter. I am thinking of the OSTAR race, later called the CSTAR.

OSTAR stood for the Observer Single Handed Transatlantic Race the Observer being a British Sunday newspaper, and the following CSTAR reflected the sponsorship of Danish brewer Carlsberg. If I was Carlsberg I would have stamped on that acronym until it drowned. Similarly, the Champagne Mumm Admiral’s Cup became CMAC.

The Volvo Ocean Race is often referred to as the VOR. Now we have the AC for America’s Cup. In England, where I live, most people who are not yachties (like 99% of the population) have no idea what AC means. Some would link it to AC Cars, Britain’s oldest car manufacturer who at one time made a vehicle called the Auto Carrier, a 5.6 hp delivery vehicle. In this case, AC is okay because the company name was changed to those initials. Americans might know the company for the AC Cobra made with Shelby.

I worked on the BOC Single-handed Round the World race and this was correct, because we were absolutely not allowed to name the company by its original name, i.e. the British Oxygen Company. At that time, it was thought not fashionable to have British in a name. British Petroleum became BP, British Airways became BA, British Aerospace became BAE and British Telecom became BT. No doubt in time the fashion will change and they will revert to their original names.

I remember giving a briefing to forty-five Royal Navy PR people, where I desperately called on them to stop using Navy speak and referring to our International Festival of the Sea as IFOS. In Radio interviews etc, promoting IFOS means nothing. Saying it in full describes the event and is immediately understood. It’s no excuse to say it is too long winded a title to write in a release. If you find it tedious to write out the full name, use Word auto-correct.

I finished my talk by describing in Army speak acronyms what they were bringing to the event – like M548, AFV, EOD, etc. The only acronym the Navy recognised was JCB, a popular digger machine. Blank faces said it all. Remember the final aim of your release, which is to promote an event and the sponsor.

I understand what the Clipper Round the World race is, I understand Volvo Ocean Race, I understand the Heineken Regatta, the Kenwood Cup, so if you are about to introduce a new series, don’t choose a name easily shortened. Go the way of JLR (Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC) who prefer Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing which says it all, so Ben should maybe look at his shortening to BAR?


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