Sailing Champions League seeks rewarding title sponsorship deal
By Florence Lloyd-Hughes
The Sailing Champions League, the sport's European clubs competition, is in the market for a high-value title sponsorship deal, according to Oliver Schwall, the chief executive of the series.
The fifth season gets under way on 31 May, and the organisers are now finalising the commercial plans.
The series is presently without a title sponsor, but is “absolutely” in the market for one, Schwall told Sportcal.
He hopes to bring in between €500,000 ($597,000) and €600,000 from any title sponsorship agreement, while regional packages are on offer for between €100,000 and €300,000 per venue.
Existing sponsors include SAP, the German software developer, and the Champions League's long-running technology partner in a deal that includes streaming services and analytics.
This year, Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, Breitling, the Swiss watchmaker, and Audi, the German automotive company, will all be local sponsors for stopovers.
The format of the Champions League is similar to its soccer namesake, with 32 teams from 17 different nations qualifying via their respective domestic leagues.
The top four clubs compete in the semi-finals and final, which are held across three different venues, with this year's hosts being Porto Cervo in Italy, St. Petersburg in Russia and St. Moritz in Switzerland.
The recognisable format is something Schwall highlights as an attractive concept for sponsors.
He explained: “We are doing nothing else than copying football. It’s club against club and simple rules. We can reach a clear target audience. Sailing is not a mass sport and it never will be. If you want to reach a target audience that can afford an Audi then sailing is the way to go.
“In Germany we have 2 million sailors and 8 million people that are interested in sailing. The key driver is the audience brands can target through sailing. There is a relevance and target audience for special products like expensive watches or cars. Then the partnership works.”
The series is streamed online across various social channels, a move that Schwall says is ideal for sailing given the difficulties is securing coverage on linear broadcasters.
He remarked: “We have had talks with lots of TV broadcasters, but sailing is a niche sport. There is so much potential with social media so together with our partners we are going to invest more and more in these channels so we can get better content.
“As a niche sport do you need to depend on linear broadcasting channels? I don’t think so, I think there is more potential online.”
The Sailing Champions League has managed to attract up to 100,000 viewers for its live streams of the racing, and hopes to build on that this season.
The series is also considering expanding beyond Europe as interest from “Australia, China, South America and the US” has been strong, according to Schwall.
This season a US sailing club has been offered a wild card for the first time, but Schwall admits that opening up the series to more international teams would present logistical challenges.
The Sailing Champions League is the brainchild of Konzeptwerft, the Hamburg-based specialist sailing sports marketing agency that markets the Audi Sailing Team Germany and the German Sailing Bundesliga, which launched in 2013.