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money, money, money

There has been much in the way of debate about the route of The Ocean Race, should be a blast around the planet like the ‘good old days’ or be more commercially focused taking the race to where the money is.

“Show me the money” may be the line from an old sports marketing movie but it is certainly relevant in today’s world of sport with virtually every high end event requiring sponsorship to even get off the start-line.

(So Far) The Ocean Race doesn’t have a billionaire backer like SailGP’s Larry Ellison to bank roll the event so it has to be largely down to the teams to fund their own entries. Did I say largely? I meant to say totally. 

As there are few individuals who have the time or urgency to race round the world in uncomfortable racing machines that funding will likely have to come from corporate sponsors and of course along with corporate spend comes the need for Return on Investment, that dreaded ROI that sports marketers are always talking about. 

I know of at least one in the mix that would be much more enthusiastic about writing a cheque if China was on the map while perhaps another doesn’t want to come to the Far East. 

I also know with certainty that in the past a huge corporation even had the graphics designed for the boat yet when a major Chinese port dropped off the map they just as quickly dropped out of the running – from hot to trot to stone cold in a blink. 

So what about sponsors that already have the T-Shirt and their China interests.

In the last race Dongfeng had an obvious desire for a Chinese stopover as did Scallywag. One entry from mainland China and the other from Hong Kong, China and they got a double bubble, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. With the amount of shipbuilding and house building China is a huge market for Akzonobel, Vestas even has a factory in Shandong Province, so important is the Chinese appetite for wind generated electric power. Brunel has offices in Shanghai as part of the network of their executive recruitment business. Mapfre certainly used to be involved with roadside assistance in China and Turn the Tide? Well with the numbers of people here plastic volumes are certainly an issue.

Did I miss anybody? No, I didn’t think so. So was the last race unusual?

Well three of the teams in the previous race were the same, Dongfeng, Mapfre & Vestas.

Alvimedica has two offices in Asia, the wealthy Chinese are a huge market opportunity for Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and with around 1.4Bn people China is, at least, a worthwhile market for SCA.

Some have said that to not return to the traditional Europe, Capetown, Aukland, South America, Europe blast around the marble would be the death knell of the race. A much more likely death sentence is the inability to attract enough team sponsors to make the event enough of competition.

Well I am pretty sure that if the race is to retain anything like the reputation it has garnered over the 45 plus years it needs  teams, teams need funding – professional crews are not cheap, and neither should they be as they are among the top in our sport and deserve to be recompensed accordingly.

So unless there is someone with a ton of spare cash out there who can come forward with a list of Facebook friends similarly financially endowed and they are willing to fund a few teams without any regard for that dreaded ROI then I guess teams will have to follow the money.

Sponsors may be easier to obtain if The Ocean Race  shows willingness to allow them (the sponsors) to follow the money by stopping at markets where they may enhance their bottom line by more than the sponsorship costs them -that’s what ROI is all about for the bean counters, whether we sailors like it or not.

In fact we sailors are the least of concerns. If sponsors were depending on us for their ROI it would be a non-starter. We have yet to see a Team Harken or a North Sails Team in the event. No it is the wider public that they wish to grab the attention of, we are too far a niche market to be any more than a small part of the equation.

The Ocean Race, along with the Whitbread and Volvo before it, is first and foremost a business proposition, especially for the sponsors and in many ways we should just be happy that as, what is virtually, a spin off of the corporate marketing budgets our sport gets some high profile coverage while we get several hours of dramatic coverage from the deep ocean. – SS.