Commercial Strategy for the Sport

Published on November 9th, 2016

Barcelona, Spain (November 9, 2016) – Powerful images, strong personalities and gripping tales of human endeavour, perseverance and achievement, sailing has it all when it comes to recounting dramatic and engaging stories.

Yet covering the sport can be notoriously tricky at times. Expensive, complex boats racing on courses that are not always within easy reach of viewers have provided plenty of challenges when it comes to the commercial aspects of the sport.

Today’s fast moving online and digital media has changed dramatically the way in which sailing has been portrayed and has presented a wide range of different approaches.

To discuss and debate how the sport can capitalise on the modern era, an impressive panel of experts presented a variety of cases in the Commercial Strategy for the Sport Forum at World Sailing’s 2016 Annual Conference.

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner kicked off the proceedings by highlighting a few mainstream sports against which sailing struggles to compete for sponsorship along with others where sailing has a distinct advantage.

He believes that one area where sailing can win is with engagement and participation.

“The previous Volvo Ocean Race took 2,400 guests on the water last time,” he said. “In the next race we are going to increase this by four times.”

Improving the direct connection with sailors during the race was another of many areas that are being developed. “This time all the sailors will have smart phones that will allow them to post messages on social media directly, but because of the way we manage the data on and off the boats it will be a one-way transfer. This presents a challenge in itself, but it is an essential part of telling the story.”

World Sailing’s Chief Operating Officer Hugh Chambers was next up and started his presentation with a question, ‘How do we make sailing stronger for all?’

In explaining the current workings and the new objectives for the federation, he outlined the rationale and World Sailing’s new strategy that includes making connections with a wider audience, while being able to gauge success against identifiable goals.

Acknowledging the key role of any federation is to regulate, he went on to explain how inspiration and participation were also key areas of activity.

“It is one thing getting more people involved, but we also need to ensure that we keep them,” he said.

The importance of the commercial agenda and how the federation could both derive more value from its existing events, while also creating new properties and partnerships was also a key part of his presentation.

Numbers were at the heart of Ulrich Lacher of Lacher Consulting’s talk which started by focussing on what potential sponsors are looking for.

But there was one particular factor that he stressed was of crucial importance, data.

David Abercrombie, Chief Executive Officer of Yachting New Zealand agreed and explained how his federation has been working with commercial partners to create mutually beneficial relationships between sponsors, yacht clubs and the local sailing community.

When it came to content and the modern digital era, Steve Nutall of YouTube provided plenty of food for thought with his video address outlining the state of the digital arena.

“There are 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute,” he said, “and 60 percent of viewers look at it on mobile devices.”

Looking ahead to the future he pointed to Virtual Reality and 360 degree video as being two technologies that would be readily exploited in the future.

Jerry Newman of Facebook Sports continued the new digital era presentation with a similar view of the future along with some equally impressive statistics.

In describing the large number of tools and techniques that are now available to help broadcast content, the message was clear, modern technology and the power of social media are providing exciting new views of sport while also providing a new wave of commercial opportunities.

Formula E’s David Warren was one of those who continued the theme of new opportunities as he explained the surprising similarities between the new electric motorsport circuit and sailing.

Sunset+Vine’s Andrew Preece and Matthew Sheahan described how the world of video and TV production is changing gear and making best use of the modern digital era to the benefit of both traditional TV and online broadcasting.

Finally, Alistair Watkins of Influence Sports explained how the sport of sailing could ensure the best chance of attracting sponsorship.

Conference detailsLive blogFacebook

Source: Matthew Sheahan – Sunset+Vine

About World Sailing’s Annual Conference
World Sailing’s Annual Conference brings together international delegates every first full week of November. It is the central meeting point where the strategy of sailing is reviewed, discussed and celebrated. Over the Annual Conference, participants plan for the future, make key decisions to drive the sport forward, share best practice and generate new ideas. The 2016 Annual Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain at the Hotel Renaissance Barcelona Fira on November 5-13.

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