SailGP: Spending money to make money

Published on January 2nd, 2020

It’s roughly estimated that Larry Ellison spent $750 million during five America’s Cup campaigns, and while he won it twice, he did not fulfill the goal of turning the historic trophy into a sustainable sports league.

Hampered by the restrictions of the event’s Deed of Gift, Ellison and his chief general of his final three cup campaigns, Russell Coutts, launched the SailGP in 2018 to be that annual, global sports league. Featuring fast boats in harbor racing, the bird’s wings were unclipped and able to finally fly.

But with Ellison initially covering the league’s costs, the fulfillment of the vision only occurs when each team takes over their annual budget ($5 million US in 2019), and for league administrative costs to no longer come from his piggy bank.

Before the inaugural 2019 season, Coutts said there would be two or three teams that are profitable by the end of season one and possibly one team from the get-go. While it is unclear if this occurred among the six international teams, SailGP is doubling-down with a global marketing campaign ahead of Season 2.

The league has launched its first global marketing campaign titled It’s Not What You Think that showcases how the global championship is transforming a traditional sport into a revolutionary world-class spectacle.

The campaign will aim to challenge global audiences’ perception and highlight that SailGP isn’t sailing in the traditional sense, but rather a progressive sport that utilizes breakthrough technology on supercharged F50 flying catamarans, inshore format racing and broadcast innovation to bring fans closer to the action than ever before.

Recognizing that people across the world are drawn to human emotion and compelling personal stories in sport, SailGP worked in coordination with multi-award winning design and advertising agency GBH to develop a campaign that spotlights the moments and experiences that unite communities, against the backdrop of awe-inspiring athleticism featured on the world’s fastest sail racing boats.

For 2020, aspiring to continue the growth of its global awareness, the championship is leveraging its marketing prowess to launch the campaign and excite new fans about Season 2 while motivating them to tune into broadcast coverage of the upcoming events.

“For many people, sailing is a traditional sport to which they don’t feel an emotional attachment, leading to preconceived notions,” said SailGP CMO Tim Godfrey. “Since the beginning, we’ve been driven by the goal of introducing a modern, redefined nation-versus-nation sporting experience to a global audience and this campaign aims to be our introduction to the masses.”

The campaign’s cinematic approach features relatable lives, people and moments through a global lens, showcasing the raw human emotion, passion and interaction that fuels all sports.

“SailGP is something completely new, but comparable to other mass audience sports in that it doesn’t require a longstanding relationship in order to feel passionate about it,” said GBH Creative Director and Founder Peter Hale. “The campaign will operate on an emotional level to appeal to a diverse and international audience in what could be their introduction to this adrenaline-filled global racing championship.”

Three significant hires for SailGP will lead the development and execution of media and marketing efforts.

To bolster its media and marketing efforts heading into Season 2, SailGP has hired Michael Porter as head of marketing and innovation, Jose Garnes as head of content, and Daisy Vollans as head of digital and engagement, as part of the organization’s marketing team, reporting to Godfrey.

“With our new hires, we want to continue building off the momentum of a record-breaking debut season and evolve our digital footprint to get existing fans excited about the upcoming campaign, while creating compelling content that draws in new audiences,” said SailGP CMO Tim Godfrey

Having spent the past five years at FIA Formula E, Porter was instrumental in the execution of global campaigns and event marketing for all races while at the motorsport championship. He will lead the day-to-day marketing efforts while working in coordination with local event teams and strategic agencies to deliver and implement SailGP’s marketing strategy.

Garnes joins SailGP with significant experience across broadcast and digital environments, most recently leading content strategy for multiple rights holders at UK production company Sunset+Vine, including the hugely successful INEOS 1:59 marathon challenge.

He will be responsible for driving content strategy, as well as identifying the most innovative and impactful storytelling techniques to strengthen existing fandom and introduce new audiences to the global championship.

Bringing a wealth of experience across digital, social and branded content for the likes of Social Chain, NBC Universal and the digital footballing platform OTRO, Vollans will lead SailGP’s digital efforts driving fan engagement and growth across multiple platforms including SailGP’s award winning app.

The trio joins SailGP as it is set to kick off its second season in Sydney with new teams from Denmark and Spain, competing against defending champion Australia, plus France, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States.

Following the opening event, the global championship returns to the U.S. for events in San Francisco (May 2-3) and New York (June 12-13), before the first European stop of the year in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the UK (August 14-15). The remainder of the Season 2 schedule will be announced in the early part of 2020.


Season 1 – 2019 Schedule
Sydney, Australia (February 15-16)
San Francisco, USA (May 4-5)
New York, USA (June 21-22)
Cowes, UK (August 10-11)
Marseille, France (September 20-22)

SailGP Season 1 Overall Leaderboard
1. Australia, Tom Slingsby, 229
2. Japan, Nathan Outteridge, 223
3. China, Phil Robertson, 171
4. Great Britain, Dylan Fletcher, 169
5. France, Billy Besson, 164
6. United States, Rome Kirby, 163

Note: Total points based on SailGP scoring.

SailGP detailsTeam rostersResultsWhere to watchFacebook

Established in 2018, SailGP seeks to be an annual, global sports league featuring fan-centric inshore racing in some of the iconic harbors around the globe. Rival national teams compete in identical F50 catamarans with the season culminating with a $1 million winner-takes-all match race.

2020 Schedule*
Sydney, Australia (February 28-29)
San Francisco, USA (May 2-3)
New York, USA (June 12-13)
Cowes, UK (August 14-15)
* Additional dates by January 2020

Source: SailGP, Scuttlebutt

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