The Good Ship PRB
In 2004 Team Ecover stood at the end of the canal, deafened by the cheering crowds, grieving the loss of the race for Mike Golding, onboard his Open 60 Ecover. The team watched as the winner of the 2004 Vendée Globe, Vincent Riou, stood aboard his winning steed, boldly branded in blazing orange livery, with the jet black letters PRB plastered all over the hull. But to the team of five, freezing cold and bitterly disappointed there was no knowledge of the might of this local Vendée business, whose history with the Vendee Globe is as intertwined with the race as the boats and skippers themselves.
If you drive on the main road into the boutique fishing port and holiday destination of Les Sables d’Olonne, in the Vendée region of France, Pays de la Loire, it is impossible not to notice the buildings of the PRB factory and headquarters. Statuesque, with clean lines and simple branding, amidst the concrete concourses and gigantic silos the majesty of the organisation is clear to see for all who pass. Not least because of the mastless hull of an orange 60ft yacht fixed to the roof. If you live outside of France and saw the three letters of PRB, which are synonymous with firsts, you could be forgiven for not knowing who they are and what they do.
The roadside metropolis is the site of the family business PRB situated on 34,000 hectares of land, producing each year 600,000 tonnes of plaster, grout, adhesives and paint for the French building trade. The company employs 420 people and will turnover around €170 million in 2012. Started in 1974 by a local builder called Jacques Laurent, who was an energetic and dynamic industrialist. From these humble beginnings the masonry company has grown steadily, distinguished by the quality of its production processes and excellent customer service. At the head of the good ship PRB is the President du Directoire, Jean-Jacques Laurent, the son of the founder Jacques Laurent.
In 1992 Jacques Laurent and his son, Jean-Jacques Laurent were walking along the pontoons of Port d’Olona, the host port for the Vendée Globe race, one week prior to the departure of the second Vendee Globe and they met a skipper, Jean-Yves Hasselin, who needed around €70,000 to start the race. Jacques Laurent agreed to give him the money and the relationship between PRB and the Vendée Globe was born. Jean-Yves Hasselin finished the race in 7th position. This was to mark the beginning of a 20 year relationship with the ‘Everest of the seas.’© unknown
In 1996 PRB sponsored the first women to enter the Vendée Globe, Isabelle Autissier, who retired from the race with a broken rudder. In 2000 the sponsorship was to come into it’s own, when PRB sponsored Michel Desjoyeaux to victory; the first of the firsts. On Desjoyeaux’s shorecrew was a young man called Vincent Riou. In 2004, on the same boat which had won the previous edition, Vincent Riou sailed into history to win the Vendée Globe once again for PRB. In 2008, PRB sponsored, Vincent Riou saved fellow skipper Jean Le Cam in a dramatic rescue and then subsequently dismasted. He was awarded an arbitrary 4th place in recognition of his sacrifice.© Sea
Unless you are indolently, and indpendently, rich raising sponsorship to fund a campaign is the linchpin of all of the Open 60 racing programmes. President du Directoire, Jean-Jacques Laurent truly understands the benefit of continued investment in the open 60 solo, non stop, yacht race - the Vendée Globe.
“When the race finished following the Yves Jean-Yves Hasselin participation we received very positive feedback from our customers and so we decided to continue with the sponsorship.” Said Jean-Jacques Laurents.
“At that time the business was quite small and the turnover was around €12 million. Now the business is 17 times larger then it was then. If we grow 15% year on year we attribute 5% of this growth to the sponsorship investment. The return on investment really began to show with the sponsorship of Isabelle Autissier but it was explosive with Michel Desjoyeaux and this changed the perception of PRB in the whole of France by around 90%.”
Laurent continues, “we manage the sponsorship internally with a team of 5-6 people but they are not solely dedicated to the project and then we work with external agency Effets du Mer. Every time we produce any marketing documents or materials you see the boat. Every time. There are two benefits to the sponsorship, internal and external. The project unites the employees of PRB and unites our customers.”
He adds, “the investment is expensive and it increases year-on-year. The boat build is €3 million and it’s €1 million per year to manage the project.” said Jean-Jacques Laurent. "We're not philanthropists."
The sailing sponsorship activation programme is well thought and smoothly executed. The objective is to showcase the image of Vincent Riou to the maximum and support the PRB business. Today, PRB has a dedicated 1000m2 area for a significant business-to-business customer relations programme devoted exclusively to business partners and the Vendée boat.
“The true value of the Vendée Globe lies in continued investment. To be involved in just one race doesn’t make sense because you must build awareness and it is the commitment that delivers the true value and big returns. Every day, we receive 550 customers from all over France. They are architects, traders, builders, and distributors to name a few. This represents more than 8,000 guests during the days before departure. It is an opportunity for us to introduce our products to those who can either buy them, or recommend them, to their customers. This is a big job because you have to invite, transport and feed them. When they arrive, we give them a demonstration of our products in the PRB space. They are then invited to lunch, given a tour of the pontoons and then return home in the late afternoon.”
According to the enigmatic leader of PRB the Vendée Globe has lost none of its magic. A fervent defender of the race, he has persuaded several sponsors to embark on the adventure. Sponsors such as Delta Dore, VMI, Maitre Coq, Akena Verandas and Cheminées Poujoulat all have - at one time or another – consulted with the historic partner before committing to a campaign.
"Even small budgets can write a great story," says he. While the economic crisis has affected all sectors, he refuses to be pessimistic. "It is precisely because this is a crisis that we must communicate." Concludes Jean-Jacques Laurent.