the crazy “water rush” of sponsors in the sailing world

Paul Meilhat was a happy sailor in November 2018. He just won the Route du Rhum in the Imoca category, meaning the monohulls that make up the Vendée Globe. A prestigious victory and yet, just after his arrival in Guadeloupe, the navigator found himself without a companion and without a boat: his sponsor abandoned him. “I looked for partners and I never succeeded, it was difficultsaid the captain. People who don’t know our sport are a bit shocked saying, ‘It’s funny, he won the race but he couldn’t find a partner.’ But it happens to everyone.”

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The 40-year-old skipper tackles this complex situation until the Vendée Globe in 2020, which offers sailing unprecedented visibility. That’s when he found a sponsor. “For four years, I didn’t ridementioned Paul Meilhat. This Route du Rhum will be my first solo race since the last Route du Rhum. We’re on the crest of the wave, it’s really incredible. The 2020 Vendée Globe was a trigger for the decision to go offshore racing.”

Biotherm has become the new partner of Paul Meilhat for this Route du Rhum 2022. The company, a subsidiary of the L’Oréal group, has already made a brief foray into the sailing world. It was in 1982 with Florence Arthaud. The renewed interest around this medium is bringing him back. No figures have been announced on the investment amount but with the construction of a new boat launched in August 2022, the investment has increased to several million euros. But this is a real opportunity for the brand. “It is primarily a medium of communication to raise public awareness on the protection of the oceans.explained Grégory Benoit, Biotherm’s international general manager. It is really through offshore racing and sailing that the sounding board becomes the most important. We are glued to the water, we are as close as possible to the subject.”

“Beyond communication and media coverage, the most important thing for us is to get on a boat with a mini-scientific laboratory to research the oceans.”

Grégory Benoit, international general manager of Biotherm

at franceinfo

Since 2021 and the arrival of the Vendée Globe, around twenty new partners have arrived on the Imoca circuit: large groups such as Swiss Hublot (subsidiary of LVMH) or American Fortinet (cyber-security specialist) but also SME. Guyot Environnement, based in Brittany, has entered the big leagues, as has Freelance.com. This company of 250 employees that helps the self-employed discover sponsorship and sailing with skipper Guirec Soudée. “We got the box in 2015 and we have grown a lot since then because the turnover has increased by twenty, from 37 million euros to 800 million this year.reviews Claude Tempe, vice-president of Freelance.com. We never imagined doing sponsorship because it’s not our subject. We hope that this will allow us to deploy a good image and a better reputation for our company beyond the small sailing world. Although we will do everything we can to maximize the fallout it can have, we have no specific plan, no quantified expectations in relation to it.

Sailing has undeniable advantages. Investment levels are very different: from a few hundred thousand euros to millions for larger projects and larger boats. And the motivations for investing are legion. First the positive image of this sport with escape, the great outdoors, nature. It’s also the chance to tell great stories, of brave women and men braving the elements. Some companies also want to use it as a lever to motivate their employees.

Freelance.com is the sponsor of skipper Guirec Soudée for Route du Rhum 2022. (POLARYSE)

In a less poetic way, sailing is a very buoyant sector, the symbol of which is the very Vendée Globe of 2020. It is a global tour of all records. With unprecedented media coverage, organizers estimate the media fallout at 269 million euros. A 35% increase compared to the 2016 edition. But in this euphoric climate, be careful not to do anything. Thierry Bouvard is the sponsorship manager at Banque Populaire, one of the oldest sailing partners with 33 years of presence in this environment. “It should be a rational and reasonable investmenthe explains. Madness leads to nothing and we have to stick to something that is bearable for the company, with a return on investment that is right, even very good. It’s not enough to go in and say, ‘I think I have the best boat, the best man and we’re going to win.’ It’s not true, you have to be patient, we know the risks.”

“If you want certainty, you shouldn’t sail. You have to buy pitchside billboards, you know when to start and when to finish. In sailing, you know when a race is leaving, we never know when it will arrive. As a result, operations are sometimes complicated to carry out.”

Thierry Bouvard, sponsorship manager at Banque Populaire

at franceinfo

And when in addition we have the opportunity to invest in the winning project, this is the jackpot. When skipper Banque Populaire Armel le Cléac’h won the Vendée Globe in 2016, the benefits for the group were estimated at 56 million euros. Ten times the initial bet!

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