The yachting industry in Southeast Asia has seen significant growth in recent years with yacht shows, races and regattas increasing in size, numbers and frequency. In Thailand alone, the next 12 months will see at least five different international yachting events, which are expected to generate millions of dollars and attract tens of thousands of visitors.
The reasons for this kind of growth are manifold: destinations such as Phuket, Langkawi and Singapore meet many of the key requirements of becoming premier sports tourism destinations, including easy access, a pleasant climate, a certain level of prestige, authenticity and, finally, diversity in the form of other tourism and leisure related facilities, including spas, restaurants and luxury accommodation options.
The shift in wealth from west to east is also a determining factor. The number of superyachts sold to Asian buyers is steadily increasing as is the number of visiting yachts from elsewhere in Asia, Europe and the Americas. This is due in no small part to the excellent facilities in place at the region’s marinas; investors and entrepreneurs pour money and effort into supporting businesses and added services such as charter and catering companies, concierge services and technical support.
Last but not least, the Thai, Malay and the Singaporean governments are actively and aggressively supporting and promoting the yachting industry. The Thai Ministry of Transport recently announced a new license that allows foreign-flagged superyachts to charter in Thai waters, a move which is meant to incentivise overseas yacht owners to bring their yachts to Southeast Asia rather than, for example, the Caribbean, during the European off season.
In other words, sports tourism is becoming a buzzword and entrepreneurs, investors and governments are all buying in. This presents a huge opportunity for organisers to put on bigger and better events and for brands and businesses to reach out to a specific target group of high-net-worth individuals, build brand identity, and align their marketing initiatives with some of the region’s biggest and most prestigious events. It also means that there is a growing need for marketing consultants to help match sponsors for the many events on the ever-growing annual yachting calendar, and help both sponsors and organisers to maximise their potential.
In the 10 years that we have sold yachting events in the region, we have witnessed a significant change in the way these events are run and the expectations sponsors have. It is no longer sufficient to simply print a few T-shirts and a poster; as events are becoming more professionally run, brands and businesses have higher expectations and they want innovative solutions and sophisticated marketing. Below are some steps organisers and sponsors can take to make successful events and get the most out of the partnership.
Before the event
Planning is the key to a successful event and it is important that sponsors and organisers identify their objectives. Contrary to what many believe, sponsors are not benefactors and the event is not a charitable cause. Rather, sponsorship is a value-adding exercise for both organisers and sponsors and it is important to approach it from that point of view. Organisers should understand the needs and objectives of brands and businesses, just as brands and businesses should understand the particular event and its participants in order to maximise the benefits of the sponsorship.
During the event
Activation is the key to a successful sponsorship. A rule of thumb is for every dollar spent on sponsorship, sponsors are encouraged to spend an additional dollar on the activation of the sponsorship.
The world of advertising is changing and with print media seeing a drop in advertising and TV struggling to attract viewers, specialised events such as a yacht show, race or regatta offer a perfect opportunity for brands and businesses to engage and interact with their target customers. Examples that we have seen in the past include a car brand offering test tours to event visitors, or a spirit brand setting up a special cocktail bar. In addition to more traditional activation methods and tools such as promotional booths and merchandise, both sponsors and organisers should acknowledge the ever-increasing importance of social media as a prime communication tool. With event participants active on a variety of platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, sponsors have a vested interest in being highly visible throughout the event and organisers can increase their visibility by being associated with brands and businesses that already have a large following.
After the event
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the job is done as soon as the last participant has left the event. Now is the time to measure the benefit of the sponsorship, and while most sponsors are looking for a return on investment, which they can quantify in terms of actual sales and leads during the event itself, there are benefits which aren’t immediately measurable, such as long-term brand attributes, increased awareness and indirect sales. You can’t always put a monetary value on an objective, so organisers should help sponsors meet objectives that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.
With the yachting calendar in Southeast Asia becoming increasingly busy and with consumers and participants having more shows, races and regattas to choose from than ever before, it is crucial that organisers and sponsors work together to ensure events remain relevant, attractive and entertaining or they risk losing out to the competition.
This article was first published in Yacht Style 33.