America loses the Cup, but sponsors win over the fans…
While a slow boat may have plagued Dennis Conner in his fight for the 1995 America’s Cup, it was nothing but a victory for his fleet of corporate sponsors.
According to a nationwide study by Performance Research of 300 America’s Cup television viewers, six out of the top ten sponsors identified with the Cup races belonged to Team Dennis Conner. Cadillac, a loyal supporter of the Cup races, won the race for share of mind, with over one-half (58%) of the viewers interviewed naming the company in unaided recall of America’s Cup sponsors. Sears, a newcomer to the Cup races, finished a surprising second, generating 35% unaided recall.
Tactical mistakes may have cost Mighty Mary (the women’s team) a spot in the America’s Cup finals yet the marketing strategy may have paid off for America3 sponsors: Chevrolet and Yoplait yogurt both reached 30% unaided recall, while L’Oreal was mentioned by 26%. Although Pact 95’s boat Young America was raced by Dennis Conner in the finals, the team’s most notable sponsor, Ford/Lincoln Mercury, seemed to sail off into the sunset with just 11% unaided recall.
While yachting may once have been a sport where sponsors were rebuffed by high-brow traditionalists, this study shows that the tide is clearly changing. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of the America’s Cup fans interviewed indicated that corporate sponsorship is “Essential to fielding a winning team”, while the same number (62%) reported that sponsorship is “Essential to the overall success of the event”. An additional 38% even reported that sponsorship of the America’s Cup is “Essential to their overall enjoyment of the races”.
America’s Cup boats may now look more like race cars than yachts, but the heavy sponsor I.D. is not turning away fans. Forty-two percent (42%) of the viewers interviewed reported that logos on the hulls and sails actually make them feel “More positive” toward sponsors. More importantly, over one-third (34%) indicated that they would “Almost always” or “Frequently” select America’s Cup sponsors’ products over those of non-sponsors. This reported brand loyalty places the America’s Cup in the league of the Olympics (where previous Performance Research studies have pinpointed sponsor loyalty at 28%), and far ahead of World Cup Soccer (13% in research conducted last summer).
Finally, while the 1995 America’s Cup may have been the worst loss for a defender in the history of Cup racing, an overwhelming majority of fans (61%) reported that they expect their interest to be “Higher” now that the Cup is in New Zealand’s hands.
Performance Research tested awareness and attitudes towards sponsorship of the America?s Cup among 306 respondents in a nationwide survey. All respondents were screened to have watched at least two full races of ESPN?s coverage of the event. Testing was conducted each night of the finals, May 6 to May 13. The margin of error is no more than +5%.
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