America’s Cup: Selling ice to Eskimos

Published on May 11th, 2020

Scott MacLeod

Scott MacLeod has spent the bulk of his life either competing in sailing or selling it, and is currently involved in the America’s Cup as the New York Yacht Club American Magic’s Commercial Director. Here’s an excerpt of an interview in WindCheck magazine:

What are your responsibilities with the team?

I oversee all of our corporate sponsors, as well as licensing and royalty partners. This includes sales, marketing, contracting and servicing all of our partners at three different levels of commitment. Currently we have 45 partners at various levels of commitment from Airbus as the major partner to Evinrude, one of our suppliers. It’s a great group of partners who have all bought into our team’s effort to win the America’s Cup.

You’ve been involved with sponsorship in sailing for (gulp!) almost 30 years! What has changed over the years, if anything?

It’s still like trying to sell ice to Eskimos, but it’s actually gotten a lot harder. Back in the day, there were fewer options for sponsors to choose from and the CEO could still make an executive decision based on his or her personal preference. I recall when I sold my first title sponsorship to a golf tournament many years ago. We were doing the pitch to the CMO when the CEO popped his head into the meeting and asked, “Now remind me, I get to play with Arnold Palmer in the Pro-Am…right?” We knew at that moment that the deal was done!

Sponsorship these days is scrutinized and analyzed at every level. In addition, there are so many new options to choose from in sports, entertainment, and culture. Unfortunately, sailing’s “numbers” have gone down and are just not consistent enough to attract big money in the U.S. In France and a few other countries, it does very well. However, if you price your sponsorship right and create a good story with the target brand, there are still opportunities out there. We recently signed our 45th team sponsor and it shows that there is a keen interest in being part of our effort to win the America’s Cup.

Commercially, this Cup hasn’t been easy. We’re less than a year out from the event and we still don’t know any of the broadcast details, we’ve cancelled five America’s Cup World Series events, and there’s been no AC racing since 2017. It would be great to get back to an AC like Valencia in 2007 where we had twelve teams from eleven countries. The campaign costs were reasonable, and the commercial aspects of the event were going in a positive direction.

For the complete interview, click here.

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