Sailing events like the Volvo Ocean Race are not just sport. Of course there is a competitive element, but if it was just 6 boats sailing around the world to see who could do it the fastest, then it would not deliver the benefits that have come to be expected by sponsors and partners and the sailors certainly wouldn’t recieve the pay-cheques they enjoy now.
There is a reason that Volvo Group maintain their title sponsorship of the race. It gives them a platform to promote their products to important markets around the world, and benefit from positive brand associations that go along with a round the world yacht race.
And so given the facts that Volvo Car Corporation is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, and that a new car is sold in China every couple of seconds, there is huge importance to the title sponsors and the city of the Sanya stopover and one imagines that while Volvo remains the title sponsor of the race, there will be a stopover in China for some time to come.
Karin Bäcklund, Director of Global Sponsorship for Volvo Cars says:
“China is of incredible importance to us. China has gone from being number 20 in terms of our biggest markets a couple of years ago to number four currently and it will be number one in a year or two.
“This event gives us a chance to show customers and clients an experience no one else can, while the number of fans who come through the Race Village and get close to Volvo cars, many of them for the first time, is very significant. Last time the Race Villages clocked up almost four million visits and people come away with a very positive view of Volvo.
“The media too see this is a major sporting event and the sheer scale of what we have here impresses everyone. There’s unbelievable value to us being in the race and we see that value really clearly here in China.”
Sven Österberg, General Manager of Event Management at Sweden-based Volvo Group adds:
“We will have almost 4,000 guests, which is a record. Normally we have around 1,000 or 1,500 in Alicante. It’s very important to meet customers in this brilliant, vibrant environment over three days with a mix of business, leisure and the very special Volvo Ocean Race sailing experience.
“Building the brand is important but for us it’s really about building relationships.”
Of course it is not just Volvo that benefit from the stopover in ‘China’s Hawaii’. The exposure to such a large, fast growing market will be one of the main reasons that brands like Telefonica, Groupama, PUMA, DHL and IWC Schaffhausen signed up for the race.
The commercial reality is that when the marketing people sit down and look at the contribution of each stop-over to the sponsorship objectives, the exposure and deals done in Sanya could dwarf the business development opportunties offered by Auckland, despite the New Zealand city’s sailing history. It will be an important consideration for cities bidding to become Volvo Ocean Race Hosts
From a race point of view, the importance of a Chinese stopover is not lost on Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad:
“China has become a real hot spot and makes the perfect stopover base for the Volvo Ocean Race on so many fronts. The number of guests coming illustrates just how important the country has become for our stakeholders.
“The chance for businesses to develop personal relationships with clients in an environment like this, out on the water, in a relaxed atmosphere over several hours, is very valuable.”