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© Christophe Favreau

13.12.2013

Ocean sailing: powerful and attractive to sponsors


Today's debate highlighted the suitability of solo and double-handed ocean sailing as a platform for meeting communication targets for sponsors. Ryan Breymaier, Gérard Lepage and Antoine Robin explained.

(See video) In solo or double-handed mode, skippers taking part in an ocean-bound regatta become agents who transmit values, and the regatta allows a connection with these at any moment, through an exchange of feelings or thoughts with the public. Few sports can boast such attributes or such satisfied sponsors. These were the main conclusions from today's fascinating debate entitled “Sponsorship in Sailing”, which captured the attention of the ocean sailing world and beyond at the Paris Boat Show.

Taking a seat on the Barcelona World Race set today were American sailor Ryan Breymaier who finished fifth in the Barcelona World Race 2010/11; Gérard Lepage, the president of Safran Sailing Team and Antoine Robin, head of the IMOCA Ocean Masters communications team. The debate kicked off by examining the aspirations of sailors, sponsors and organisers involved in ocean sailing. Loïc Le Bras took to the moderator's chair for another ocean sailing debate.

Ryan Breymaier, an American sailor based in Brittany, France, explained the approach many skippers take when looking for a sponsor; in his case the profile he looks for is an American company with interests in Europe. He was followed up by Gérard Lepage, who gave a detailed description of the strategies followed by his group to find the sportsperson and the sport in which to invest. In his opinion solo and double-handed ocean sailing fit the bill perfectly for his key objectives, as the experience of the boat Safran has demonstrated during the past two editions of the Vendée Globe and in the transatlantic regattas raced by the team: “From the start we bypassed any sport where there was a great distance between the activity being carried out and the objective we needed to communicate. With sailing we found the shortest possible route to that”.

The Safran Sailing Team president expressed his satisfaction with the IMOCA Class and was brimming with enthusiasm for the sailing projects. “We offer ourselves as an example of a sponsor experience to other sponsors, to IMOCA, to the skippers... We are keen for IMOCA to be as dynamic as possible and we are entirely at their disposal”, declared Lepage, who added that the uncertain nature of a boat finishing a regatta is a factor that must also be considered when planning a communication strategy: “You don't know if you'll finish. Therefore it is important to have been able to guarantee a return on investment before the start of the race. Ocean sailing lets you do that”.

The subject of budgets and investments was the key focus of the latter part of today's discussion. Antoine Robin gave a comprehensive outline of the multiple approaches a skipper and sponsor might take to set up a round the world project and he also underlined the most attractive features for sponsors of a competition which takes place out in the middle of the ocean: “Sailing favours a very powerful relationship between the company making the investment and its brand objectives. From a more philosophical point of view, putting the human factor ahead of everything else is key, and that is one of the objectives of the Ocean Masters. Our sport is unique in that communication is possible during the course of a competition, so the daily experiences and emotions of a sailor can be shared with the public. That warmth, that humanity, are incredibly positive lines of communication”.

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