Why Land Rover opted for the Extreme Sailing Series
The Extreme Sailing Series, the global in-shore sailing event which has pioneered the stadium sailing concept, has announced Land Rover as one of its main partners for the next three years. As the ink was drying on the most important sponsorship contract in the series’ seven year history, Mark Turner, the executive chairman of OC Sport, the sports marketing and management firm which runs Extreme Sailing, sat down with SportsPro to talk through the partnership.
How did the Land Rover deal come about?
In 2011 we made a fairly big and bold step to go from being a European event to a global event, which cost a lot of time, energy and money to make happen. Ultimately that move is something that’s now being rewarded in some way. When Land Rover had research commissioned as to what sports they should be in – they wanted to apply a more global strategy to their sponsorship strategy across the world – they identified three and sailing came up as one of those. Once they were looking at sailing, ultimately Extreme Sailing is probably the only global annual event. It was quite a natural choice. They also looked at offshore, ocean sailing as opposed to in-shore and from a brand and a product perspective they were trying to be more urban, more touchable, more present so in-shore was a natural. Extreme Sailing is a global product, a premium sport which goes to some iconic venues which are a good match for their major markets – and that will improve as we go on as well – so it made sense.
What have Land Rover said about what they expect to get out of the partnership?
The main value or advantage of sailing as opposed to other sports options is the experiential side – getting clients, VIP guests, out on the water to experience. That’s pretty valuable. They [Land Rover] don’t need to go into sailing or the Extreme Sailing Series from a brand awareness point of view, there are other properties that can probably do that better but in terms of a property that would extend the presence of their brand but in a way that fits their positioning and how they want the brand to be seen we seem to be a very good fit. It’s a great partnership to get signed, it brings great credibility to our event in its seventh year and it also brings a premium, great brand into the sport. That will help us get a second main partner to sit next to Land Rover but it’s also a great sign and signal for our other partners about the event. Land Rover do great activation work and certainly a key value for us will be the activation and exploitation that they do around the partnership – as a consumer brand they can help us greatly with the public side of our events, but equally on a B2B or hospitality side they have very exacting standards and high expectations that will help us develop our offering as well.
How is the deal structured and valued?
It’s primarily a cash deal. We have use of vehicles, so there is a value-in-kind part. A good part of the deal is linked in to performance measures and co-marketing budgets. For us the Land Rover deal will enable us to continue to invest and grow the event – it’s not about taking money out of it. We agreed to a big chunk of funding being linked to co-promotion itself – having a consumer brand do what they do probably much better than what we can do it, in terms of marketing around the event, will help us a great deal. There’s various elements in there but it’s largely cash-based even if it’s not about a rights fee, it’s about funding going into the event to develop it.
"It's up to us to make it work and up to Land Rover to get the most from it as well"
How will the sponsorship be activated, especially short-term as the season’s already underway?
It’s a three year agreement with options to continue, but I think it’s being viewed long-term by both parties. It’s up to us to make it work and up to Land Rover to get the most from it as well. Ultimately their overall strategy for choosing to go into sailing and then the Extreme Sailing Series was a nine month process. From a big picture point of view I think everyone’s clear about how we want to work together and what they want to get from it, but equally it’s a new sport for the team at Land Rover so there’s a little bit of learning to do as well. As ever, you don’t ever get the signature across the line when you’d like to, in terms of timing, so I think there’ll be a bit of a stepping-up event by event. We’ve eight events this year and we’ve had two. It will take us time to build that up. I think 2013 will be about each event and getting better at working together step-by-step; for many of the local markets it will be the first time they’ve ever done anything in sailing. Land Rover do things very well and to a very high standard. We’ll help them get more from it on an event-by-event basis.
What does this deal say about the health of the Extreme Sailing Series?
To have a new brand come in, identify sailing and then the Extreme Sailing Series, couldn’t be much more of an endorsement, in an environment where lots of people are fairly negative about the sponsorship world. I think it shows that if you’re very clear about what your product is, be it a team or event, and stick to that and show that it’s a reliable property, developed professionally and is developed and growing year by year then it can be attractive, whatever sport you’re in. Sailing is like lots of other minority sports: you’ve got to have a very clear offering that’s different to big soccer clubs. You can’t get a partnership on the basis that you’re going to get Premier League football levels of TV coverage – lots of people try in sailing and throw media numbers around but at the end of the day sailing is never going to get the same TV audience or TV deals as Premier League soccer or Formula One. But you have to have a good media platform to underpin the other great things sailing can deliver: fantastic experiential side, the B2B side, the emotional side, the fact that it’s flexible in that you can take your platform everywhere in the world where there’s water – there’s not many cities we can’t go to – and it’s uncluttered, visually stunning. It’s great from a general sponsorship perspective for us to bring a brand ostensibly for the first time into a sport and into a global property. It’s been a few years of us working towards that. It’s not an overnight thing.
And what does it say about sailing’s sponsorship market?
Sailing can be a scary brand, a scary sport for someone looking in who doesn’t know the sport. It’s a little bit Wild West sometimes, it doesn’t have a dominant federation – most of the sport is outside of the federation’s scope, really. But the rewards can be very good and things are very flexible and not nailed down by a federation controlling everything, so there’s two sides to the story. With our event we’ve tried to show you can be a rock-solid sports business property and yet still have the flair and interest and excitement that sailing has a sport.
You mentioned a potential second partner – what sort of timeline is in place to get that confirmed?
Our objective is to have a second partner in place for the 2014 season, so we’re looking to get something across the line in autumn. We’ve been in some good discussions already – at one point I thought we might get across the line with both at the same time. The arrival of Land Rover and the arrival of SAP a few months ago is opening up doors that were not closed but had been shut to us a little bit in the past, just because people didn’t have enough confidence in it. Without question, Land Rover will give confidence – it’s the last key bit of the jigsaw we haven’t got in place today. It will also help our venue deals. Each year we’re renewing or changing two, three or four of the eight or nine venue deals so it’s also positive in that respect as well, as we’re setting the 2014 calendar.