Volvo English Channel Ocean Race

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BP’S Tony Hayward means I’m risking wrath when I reveal I too was taking part in the same race as him, on a similarly large yacht. (From the archive!)

Indeed, we actually overtook him, which was nice.

I was on one of two Volvo yachts, entering in the annual Isle of Wight Round The Island race. Volvo’s big into boat sponsorship – it invests fortunes into it, running the Volvo Ocean Race round-the-world event every 4 years, backing Olympic medallists and supporting the future ones.

Pretty passionate about it too, Volvo is; that’s why we were given the change to get involved, to show what’s it’s all about. ‘We don’t just sponsor things for the sake of it – they have to fit in with our brand, and also give an opportunity for us to get fully involved.’

Genuine support, it seems, instead of just paying to put a name to something. It’s why Volvos seem to fit in well amongst sailory types; the tune of 5-cylinder D5s was the soundtrack to the weekend around Cowes, and quite fitting it was, too.

It’s the sort of sponsorship marketing folk rate as a success. The brand fits the sport yet it also makes sense to those who’ll never set foot on water.

Thus ensued a conversation about other successful sponsorship arrangements, where brand fits in perfectly with sport. We came up with:

•    BMW PGA Golf
•    Ford Champions League
•    Mitsubishi Badminton

All of these are characterised by perfect brand fit, affinity with target buyers, committed car maker backing of the sport, and a basic feeling that it ‘makes sense’.

Further benefits and paybacks come from the people whom the car maker sponsors. We were on Olympic God Medal winner Paul Goodison’s yacht; he’s the perfect brand ambassador, speaks about the values of it with conviction and belief. Rather than talking with ‘word for the sponsor’ soundbites.

It was hard work, but a day to remember – and has shown me what makes both a good and a bad sponsorship deal. Now the interest and understanding is there, I’ll be following this up in the future. Thus hopefully meaning I escape the Haywardesque wrath of you…


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