Skandia’s sailing investment
In this May 2012 feature, SportsPro caught up with Skandia head of brand marketing Jo Rimmer who explained why in 2008 the investment company took the decision to discontinue its lengthy title sponsorship of Cowes Week, one of the oldest and most prestigious sailing regattas in the world, in favour of refocusing its efforts behind another of its sponsorship properties, namely the British sailing team.
“We really needed to look at how we could maximise the budget in the best way we could because our resources are not limitless,” says Rimmer, explaining the company’s change of tack.
"The British sailing team has a fantastic record of success – they’re all amazing characters and ambassadors – so we really felt that this was the thing to get behind”
“Although it had been great at Cowes for 14 years maybe we were becoming a bit like wallpaper in some ways. We took a decision that the time was right to refocus behind the sailing team and do that instead. The British sailing team has a fantastic record of success – they’re all amazing characters and ambassadors – so we really felt that this was the thing to get behind.”
Following an approach from the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), Rimmer says both organisations spent the best part of a year ironing out a contract before eventually shaking hands on a deal which saw Skandia come on board as title sponsor in 2006. “It wasn’t something that just came in overnight,” says Rimmer. “This was really crafted to be exactly what worked for us and what worked for them. It was the first time anybody had done anything like that so there was a lot of work on how that would look and how that would fit in with the sailors and their own personal sponsors – a lot had to be looked at from a commercial point of view.”
The commercial detail is a crucial point given that Skandia’s sponsorship of Team GBR will run up to and beyond the 2012 London Olympic Games. “Obviously we get our name everywhere – on their clothing, boats and any kind of transport they travel in,” Rimmer says. “We also have access to a lot of sailors to do corporate things – team-building exercises, motivational talks. You have to be realistic about what you are going to get from it and TV is always a challenge. Sailing is not something you can easily film but because there are such great characters in the team and they are very happy to do media interviews, by working with some specialists in the PR field we’re able to get a huge amount of return on investment through media coverage.”
"We’re not there for that short time, we’re actually there in the background to help them achieve their ultimate goal and to be part of that is amazing"
All of that, however, means that, while Skandia has myriad opportunities to present itself and its services to an affluent target audience, the organisation, like so many others involved in supporting Britain’s national teams, must be extra careful of how they activate come Games time. “It’s very black and white as to when you can and can’t do things and we are very careful with anything we’re looking at to make sure we’re not going to fall foul of any rules – we’re not going to tread on anyone’s toes.
“However,” she adds with a smile, “as soon as they’re allowed to come out of the team they’re back into their Skandia Team GBR kit and it’ll start all over again.
“If the Games hadn’t been held in London it would have been more of a difficult decision to take on the team. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have done, we may well have done, but it was a bit of a golden opportunity to do that because the focus is going to be on all the British athletes. For us, we’re not an Olympic sponsor, we will have nothing to do with the Games, but the important thing is that we’re making a long-term investment to that sport and we’ve been there for more than four years of run-up to it. We take pride in the fact that we’ve been able to help athletes get to a level when they can be able to be selected for the Olympics. That’s fantastic because we’re not there for that short time, we’re actually there in the background to help them achieve their ultimate goal and to be part of that is amazing.”
This feature originally appeared in the May 2012 edition of SportsPro. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.