Not Really What We Hoped For

Published on February 1st, 2017

As the Commercial Commissioner for the 35th America’s Cup, it was the role of Dr. Harvey Schiller to maximize the commercial opportunities for the America’s Cup in 2017. But he also knew something had to change to fulfill this objective.

“The biggest weakness commercially for events like America’s Cup is that you can’t commit the sponsor beyond the current years of the Cup,” noted Schiller in 2014. “You can’t say to a broadcaster, whether it’s here or internationally, ‘Okay NBC, we’ll give you the rights for the next 12 years.’ Because they’ll take – to protect it, they’ll pay big money for that. And that’s what most sport leagues do. The Olympics are tied up by NBC through 2024. So in the past, you could not do that. So the goal here is to be able to deliver to the teams the ability to carry their sponsorships beyond 2017. And that I would think is in their best interest.”

While it is in the interest of the commercial opportunities for the America’s Cup, would such a change be in the best interest of the event? We may find out as five of the six competing teams have a vision on how to do so, and if one of them wins the 35th America’s Cup in 2017, their plan may have wings.

But not everyone is enamored with the changes to the event. Italian Olympic medalist and noted one design boat builder Luca Devoti, who was involved in both the monohull and multihull era of the America’s Cup, chimes in regarding the proposed plans

“As only commercial considerations seem to characterize the game, they have forgotten that four is the magic number for sportive cycles. Four years between Olympics, four years from a Football World Cup to another, four years for the Rugby World Cup to the next edition. That has a reason, as a shorter time does not really allow to plan, create and put together a new team of such high intensity.

“Events require rest, build up, preparation, and focus. Physiological time is not really in sync with trying to maximize earnings and so we have the actual situation, a kind of self-promotion brings out the message that they are the best and nobody else can have a chance. But are they really? The fact that no new team will have a real chance will end up killing even more of what is left of the glorious America’s Cup.

“When Larry Ellison invited all skippers of the 32nd America’s Cup on his beautiful Rising Sun, he promised to create a stable and exciting circuit for pro sailors. But now the event has gone from 500 sailors involved down to sixty, and looks like more or less the same sixty will be there for a couple of more rounds. Not really a stable professional circuit, as such small numbers of sailors and the luck of chance to enter the game are not really in line with what we hoped for…”

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