I was chatting with Clean the other day, and he mentioned that an update on where things are with the US Olympic Sailing Program would be a good idea. I’m happy to share a few thoughts and would love to see a thread follow this piece so we all can chat about what is going on. So here’s where things are from my perspective:
We ended 2008 having made a lot of progress in the previous four years. We grew our funding from a total annual budget of about a million in 2004 to a total annual budget of between 3 and 4 million today. That’s a lot of progress in four years, and it’s due to the hard work and support of a lot of people. Our entire leadership team was proud of the medals we won in 2008 – a gold and silver at the Olympics and a gold and bronze at the Paralympics. But as proud as all of us are of our athletes, we were not satisfied with the 2008 performance. "Proud, but not satisfied" was the mantra on the Olympic Sailing Committee in the fall of 2008.
The last four years were about changing the funding model, shrinking the size of the team, increasing the focus of the whole program, and starting to build a brand. We were fixing the fundamentals of our business.
In the fall of 2008, our leadership group set a whole new set of strategic goals for these next four years. If the last four years were about fixing up the house, these next four years will be about inviting more people over to that house, increasing the "size of the party" so to speak. In other words, we want to raise awareness of our athletes and our program, and build a fan base around the exploits of some amazingly dedicated sailors.
So what are we doing to achieve these strategic goals? A number of things:
- We’ve partnered with Atlantis WeatherGear to clothe the team and create a team look. We now compensate our athletes in exchange for their participation in our branding program displaying out title, gold and silver partners on team clothing, and title and gold partners on hulls and sails. It’s an optional program for them, but to date every single athlete that has been offered this agreement has signed it.
- We’ve hired new staff that will be traveling with the team nearly full-time in 2010, updating our Facebook page, tweeting results from regattas, shooting audio and video for posting online, updating our public website? all in an effort to bring more visibility and access to our team.
- We’ve made some changes to our coaching and training model, encouraging our athletes to work more closely together, and train under our program coaches. This reinforces the team culture, builds a squad mentality and builds a more satisfying experience for everyone.
- This winter, we’re taking some of our athletes on a national speaking tour at yacht clubs around the country, in an effort to make our athletes more well-known on a national basis. We’re starting with five clubs and then will expand the program in the subsequent months. We’ll be advertising dates and locations in the next few weeks.
- This is just a taste of what we’re up to. But we’re focused on all the things that need to be done to broaden our exposure, build a fan base, and create a program with long-term viability.
I care about our performance in 2012. It’s at the top of my list of priorities. But I care just as much about the program we leave to the next Olympic Sailing Committee and the next generation of athletes. Of all the things I think we have achieved these last few years, near the top of the list is that we now have a program that thinks and acts and plans beyond four-year cycles. We’re thinking and planning with one eye on the next Games and the other eye on the long-term.
That’s what we’re up to? fire away with the questions here and I’ll answer what I can. Thanks!
-Dean Brenner, Chairman
US Sailing Team Alphagraphics