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March 4, 2007

Brand Names Play Commanding Role on America's Cup Yachts

America3.jpgAngus Philips wrote a great article in today’s Washington Post about the America’s Cup, which nether resides in America nor is really very American at all: it was named after the first boat that won the originally British sailing event, the “America,” in 1851.

When the race begins on April 16th in Valencia, Spain - the first time the cup has been contested in Europe - there will be fewer Americans than ever. Only one team will fly the stars and stripes, “billionaire Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle out of San Francisco, and it will have a New Zealander on the helm and a Frenchman calling tactics.”

The race takes two months, costs hundreds of millions of euros and the defending champion is land-locked Switzerland. Welcome to the era of big-time sailing, where big-time brand names jostle for space with country names and top sailors go to the highest paying team.

The top three challengers will be Emirates Team New Zealand (named after the fast growing Arab airline); USA’s BMW Oracle (after a German carmaker and U.S. software empire) and Italian Luna Rossa (sponsored by Prada.)

Americas_Cup.jpgAccording to American Paul Cayard of Desafío Español, however, the Cup is not just a race between big brands: there is still enough nationalism left in the World Cup for fans to feel a genuine charge of patriotism if their country’s yacht crosses the finishing line.

The boat has to be constructed in the team's country and have its “national letters on the sail and the flag.” But big brand names have to play a role since they are the only ones who have the incentive to pour millions of dollars into these races, which explains why some of the biggest sailing regattas in the world have well known brand names attached.

Two of the biggest are The Volvo Ocean Race and the Louis Vuitton Cup, now known as the “America's Cup Challenger Series presented by Louis Vuitton;” which will be available for viewing on Versus, who edged out ESPN for broadcast rights as well as the America's Cup itself.


In the build up before the Cup there will be a contest between French Areva (named after a nuclear power company) and Team Shosholoza (sponsored by T-Systems) from South Africa (Shosholoza is a Zulu word meaning “go forward.")

If you’re interested, you can play the video game,
The 32nd America’s Cup-The Game, which will be released next month. Be assured that gamers will get the same exposure to these brand names as those following the race on Versus.

The Cup, and the yachts themselves, are perfect brand name platforms designed to reach that elusive, wealthy market of sailing aficionados. I think these very recognizable brand names add a familiar touchstone to a race whose rules and tactics may be unfamiliar to most of us.

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Posted by William Lozito at March 4, 2007 10:26 AM
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