Captain Rapscallion has joined the BYM team as a columnist. We hope you'll enjoy his sideways glances at some sailing issues. You might even agree with him!!
"After seeing ABN AMRO 2 turned into a giant pink shoe my mind started to unravel. Why am I spending all of this money on sailing gear when I could just get a sponsor?"
Iain Murray brought up some interesting points on what sponsorship is doing to the sport and the sport is doing to sponsorship, in an exclusive interview with BYM News. He believes the big toys are getting bigger and “The Great Race” is being copied and mutated so that no “Great Race” even exists anymore. I never had much use for those regattas. A 60 foot pink puma costing more than I will ever earn in my life just doesn’t capture my imagination, but Iain raised some interesting concerns. Does this type of advertising make the sport of sailing appear more accessible? It may indeed. I can think of other sponsors that would also contribute to that false belief, like Wal-Mart. Why isn’t Wal-Mart sponsoring a sailboat? What about the fast food chains? Why isn’t Ronald MacDonald at the helm of one of these super boats? Where is Viagra? I would think this would be the drug’s demographic…
Iain mentioned that sponsors are only willing to pay a certain amount for the exposure. He is correct. If the teams need more money they have a couple of options; they can find more sponsors, have a bake sale, auction the crew off for “dates” with fans, develop a gimmick that would give the boat more than the expected exposure (perhaps a stunt double of the boat sailing over Niagara falls for example… or have the crew learn to play instruments, so they can make cash on the side in a Christopher Cross Tribute band), or simply figure out a way to increase the interest in the sport through other clever PR and marketing tactics that I would be willing to share for a small fee.
Personally, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race don’t really capture my interest. It just seems like too much like politics. He who has the most cash wins and what is the sport in that? It’s like going squirrel hunting with a rocket launcher. For that reason I follow the small stuff - like Tornados and Melges 24s - the kind of boats I see on Wed night beer can races. If sponsors focused on creating an amateur circuit, for a one-design boat most racers could afford, I believe they would reach their intended audience more effectively. But how do we, as amateur sailors, make our sport more attractive to sponsors?
I have been thinking about that and I believe I have a couple of ideas. Lets start by looking at NASCAR in the US. Those cars are plastered with logos! It also helps to be on TV. Sailing just doesn’t work on TV the way it stands now; not enough action. So I was thinking we could change the racecourse to a figure 8 and change the rules a bit so there are more crashes. The boats need to hit each other more, and then we can get on TV like NASCAR.
I also believe the boats should be home built and cost no more than 5000 US dollars. That way sponsors would be able to get teams cheaply, and crashing the boat would just mean you build a new one. I was thinking of a boat like the paper tiger or some kind of a ply skiff. The boats should be fast, dangerous and very cheap. If the participants aren’t cheating death somehow, the sport just won’t have the needed dimension required for T.V. Races can only be held when the wind is cranking as well. It won’t take long for people to take notice. We could put cameras on the boats and have the sailors look at the logos on the other boats! I was thinking about getting swimsuit models to announce the races. They really don’t have to know what is going on in the race in order to make the commentary interesting.
If we as sailors get together and play our cards right, we can create a sport that is more exciting and sponsor friendly.