Making it work
But how does Alex Thomson Racing deliver that return for the high value global brand? Speaking to ATR’s managing director Stewart Hosford it immediately becomes obvious. Sheer hard work and many thousands of sailing miles are just part of the marketing mix……
What role, in effect, to the actual Vendée Globe play within the overall marketing programme?
“For us the Vendée Globe is the culmination of many years work. For our sponsor Hugo Boss it is a core part of the story of their sponsorship of Alex and the team.
"And so we have been building all of our press activities, all of our hospitality activities, all the talks we do, we build to a crescendo which really starts to happen now. So today we are launching a number of competitions, Facebook campaigns and a whole bunch of things which culminate in the race start itself. We invest heavily in the digital offerings. So that builds through to the start. With a month to go, we start pushing them hard now. We have some great photographic images, some great video which we have done and so we start to release that over the next couple of weeks. We push it out via the i-Pad applications, Facebook, Twitter, the website. In addition to that Press remains a core component of what we do, so we make sure we are engaged with the key yachting media, we have 7-9 journalists which we will bring to Les Sables d’Olonne and there will be more from the lifestyle press who are more connected to the Hugo Boss story.
“In Les Sables d’Olonne we will be running around like crazy. Hugo Boss have a stand there, we have upwards of 50-60 guests from Hugo Boss Sweden, Germany, UK which will be there and we will do quite a lot of entertainment in the last few days before the race start.
Hugo Boss’ connection with the Vendée region is important, but the most important thing is that the media spreads as far and wide about the sponsorship and about Alex connecting with the German, French and British press and the people who have been engaged with us over the years, like in the USA the CNN guys and Bloombergs who have been really connected to the story, and so making sure we get the messages out.
That is what important to us.
So how has your delivery changed since the last race?
At the last Vendée Globe start we had a lot of press investment but we did not have Facebook at all and the website was something we updated for some of the fans. That has changed significantly in the last four years and our core channels for Hugo Boss are through the social media and the website. That has fundamentally changed since the last Vendée Globe
But it is very much a global programme, something which might not be immediately obvious to the European audience who don’t travel to other continents?
Hugo Boss is a global sponsorship and therefore we have to be global to meet those objectives. We have two boats, the promotional boat and the race boat. In the last 12 months the promotional boat did the Sydney-Hobart Race last Christmas, then it was in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tai-pei for a major store opening, we did a fashion shoot in Hong Kong and Shanghai, in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and right now they are in Mauritius. They will be in Cape Town for Christmas, hospitality and fashion shoots for the run up to Christmas. In 12 months the boat has gone from Sydney-Hobart through to Cape Town via all these places. That has been a very big project for us. Even just managing the IMOCA Open 60 through these zones has been a job. We have had to have security consultants work with us in terms of piracy. We have had to have translators to beat the language barriers. It has been a very big project, but it has been a very important project for us and for Hugo Boss. It has been fantastic for us. It is easy to say but in Europe because there is so much activity, it can be quite hard to get interest in a project like this. But in China the reaction has been fantastic. We have had the top media and the top fashion media, buyers on the boat. Alex and myself have spent a lot of time in Asia this year. It is clearly a very important market for Hugo Boss.
But the simplicity of the Vendée Globe is a relatively easy concept to understand for the wider audience?
In Asia they absolutely ‘get it’. It is central to the whole mix. And that is the reason why I think IMOCA has got so much untapped potential. When Alex or I stand up in front of a group of people and say: ‘What we do is put one person on a boat, solo. They sail around the world, on their own, without stopping. The sail down from France, left at Africa, left at Cape Horn, back up to France without touching dry land. First person back wins. It is a fundamentally easy thing to explain. I think it is so much easier a story to be telling than about a wing masted match racing.
So what proportion of the return comes from these tours?
In terms of the return to Hugo Boss, around 40% comes from those tours. And then the Race Boat gas been incredibly busy. We got the boat in the Autumn and did the TJV and the B2B. We refitted it in January and February. The boat went to Monaco to the F1 Grand Prix, and we stopped and did four days hospitality in Barcelona. Alex sailed the boat to New York singlehanded. We did ten days of very intense days in New York which was fantastic for us. Alex was live on Bloomberg, live on CNN. We had people doing weather forecasts from the boat. We had a full page in the New York Times and it was just unbelievable. We did eight days of hospitality and a great photo shoot with the Statue of Liberty. And then Alex sailed the boat back to the UK and broke the record, and that was a fillip for us because we really were not expecting it.