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UK sports minister Hugh Robertson on Clipper, legacy and brand Britain

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31 July 2013 | Clipper,Comment

UK sports minister Hugh Robertson on Clipper, legacy and brand Britain

UK sports minister Hugh Robertson joined Clipper Race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in London’s Trafalgar Square on Wednesday morning to launch the Great Britain boat that will compete in the round-the-world-event, which gets underway in September. London is hosting the start and finish of the epic race, which sees trained members of the public compete as crew, and GREAT Britain, the UK’s government-backed international and marketing promotional campaign aimed at attracting tourism and business to Great Britain, has teamed up with British brands such as Land Rover to enter a team. SportsPro caught up with Robertson, who christened the new boat with the traditional bottle of champagne, to hear more about the project and how it will help build brand Britain.

What message does branding a Clipper Race boat send about Great Britain?
In a sense, it's quite an obvious project for this country to get involved in. We're an island race, we're a great seafaring nation. We have a long and proud tradition of sailing success, stretching back many, many centuries. Sailing is very, very strong in this country at the moment. The great thing about a project like this is it brings all that together, you get some iconic British brands sponsoring it and it effectively gives us a platform that will sail around the world over the next few months on which we can run a whole series of advertising and messaging campaigns that's good for British business.

How did the government's involvement in this project come about?
The government, about three years ago, kicked off the GREAT campaign, the idea of which was to try and maximise the advertising and marketing and promotional opportunities available on the back of London 2012 and the jubilee last year and then to run that on, to try and make sure the maximised the value of all those great events. GREAT is now in its third year of operation. People say it's been the most successful government advertising campaign that any country has ever marketed - the Germans love it, rather bizzarely. We've got another year of funding and we're applying for another one after that. Everything that embassies and consulates and all the rest do around the world is done against the backdrop of the GREAT campaign. It's also fantastic, then, to have things like this, 'Great'-branded, to take that message around in a slightly different way.

There's been a lot of talk about legacy in recent weeks - is this something that falls under that?
The opportunity and the challenge with legacy is that it's a term that's as big as it is broad. One of the frustrations for us in government is that all sorts of things that we have nothing to do with and were never part of what we thought of the legacy get wrapped up in this and you get the blame for all sorts of things that go wrong. The GREAT campaign was a key driver of the whole legacy project, so this is pretty centrally in the middle of legacy. I was the Olympics minister last year, sports minister now, and sailing is a really important sport for us in this country. We're very good at it, at Olympic level, we're good at the endurance stuff, we've had trails and trails of very successful sailors recently. To bring together that 'Great' branding and the success of sailing is a very obvious link, for me.

How will you measure the success of this?
It is a sports contest so the first measure of success will be where we come in the race, but the second thing will be the way that UK Trade & Investment, which is responsible for this, can tot up the contracts and opportunities that flow from the promotional activity that's done on the back of this. We were able, two weeks ago, to announce that since London 2012 we've won just shy of UK£10 billion worth of economic contracts on the back of and connected with 2012. There will be a series of other contracts that will be signed as a result of this boat going around the world, through the contacts that are made, the opportunities that are generated, people who interact with the boat. The second measure will be the contracts that are won.

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