Results of recent membership survey by the International Council of Yacht Clubs
Sponsorship revenue has long been an engine that drives the success of major sailing regattas around the globe. Names like Rolex, Hugo Boss, and Volvo have become synonymous with the biggest campaigns and the most glamorous regattas, while local companies—banks, real estate agencies, car dealerships—have offered stability for smaller competitions.
When the global pandemic hit in 2020, yacht clubs everywhere were forced to pause their sailing activities and reconsider their sponsor relationships. Now, in the summer of 2021, the ICOYC surveyed its Member Clubs to understand the current landscape of sponsorship.
We received responses from Member Clubs located across Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South America and North America. The geographical diversity of this survey’s respondents lent particularly interesting insights. To those who participated — thank you. Your collaboration allows The ICOYC to provide impactful insights to our Member Clubs.
Sponsors in a Typical Year
In a typical year, 53% of Member Clubs host three to five sponsored events or regattas; 40% host five or more and only 7% host three or less.
The average length of sponsor contracts was evenly split between 1 year, 2 years and 3-4 years with the most popular answer (40%) being “1 year”.
The annual sponsor revenue for Member Clubs ranged from $5,800 USD a year to $200,000. On average, Member Clubs reported annual sponsorship revenue of $43,500, or €36,685.
Average annual revenue from sponsors, across all Member Clubs
When it comes to differentiating between monetary and in-kind sponsor support, the field was split. 46% of Member Clubs reported that 20% or less of sponsorship revenue was purely monetary (meaning 80% or more came in the form of in-kind donations) while 53% reported that at least 70% was monetary with 30% or less in-kind.
The yachting industry is the largest supporter of Member Clubs’ regattas and events, with 27% reporting it to be a major supporter. Food & Beverage wasn’t far behind (21%) while Luxury Goods and Professional Services (financial, real estate, etc.) both accounted for 16% of responses.
Clubs rely equally (38% each) on corporations and small businesses to provide sponsorship support, while only 11% of sponsor revenue comes from small donors.
Sponsors and COVID-19
During the pandemic, most clubs reported their sponsor levels remained neutral, with several sponsors pausing for one year but promising to return. About a quarter of Clubs gained sponsors and only 7% lost sponsors.
Royal New Zealand Yacht Club said that their ability to retain sponsors through the pandemic was thanks to the fact that their sponsorship agreements extend for three years. At Royal Lymington Yacht Club, they reported a mix of success, indicating that larger corporations tended to have budgets that allowed them to stay on while smaller, local supporters were more likely to reduce or postpone sponsorship due to pandemic-related business challenges.
Attracting and Retaining Sponsors
Managing Sponsor Relationships
About 50% of Member Clubs reported that staff were primarily in charge of managing relationships with sponsors, while only 20% said that onus fell to a designated group of member volunteers. The remaining 30% indicated the work was shared between staff and volunteers. No clubs reported using an outside third party to manage their sponsorship relationship.
Engaging with Potential Sponsors (i.e. selling)
By far, the most common way to engage with potential sponsors was by networking at Club events, followed by networking at professional or industry events, and then cold calls.
Royal New Zealand Yacht Club said they work closely with the membership, asking them to think of and introduce sponsors.
An interesting outlier was Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, who indicated they don’t actively seek sponsors at significant levels but enjoy a small amount of in-kind donations ($8,000 AUS) from local businesses. For those sponsors, the primary benefit of sponsorship is exposure to the membership.
Sponsors and Membership
Slightly more than half of Member Clubs have incorporated a membership incentive into their sponsorship programs: 53.3% of Member Clubs offer Club Memberships as part of the sponsorship packages and 60% have a Sponsor Membership Category.
Elements of Sponsorship
At Yacht Club Punta del Este, sponsors are offered a wide array of benefits including naming events, logo presence, merchandising, flags/signs at the Club and/or boats, sailing experiences, social events and publication in the Club’s magazine. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron indicated an equally robust list, adding club discounts and room hires at the club.
Most clubs include food, entertainment, signage and sailing gear in their sponsorship benefits, as well as media elements such as exposure in publicity, on banners and at the prize-giving ceremony. Royal Lymington Yacht Club said, “We are increasingly allowing sponsors to use the clubhouse for business.”
When asked what aspect of their sponsorship packages sponsors get the most value out of, there was one clear trend: access to and association with the club. Nearly every responding Member Club indicated that sponsors appreciate being able to access the membership and the facility. Equally, they appreciate being associated with the club.
In your experience, what works well to retain sponsors?
Yacht Club Italiano provided a helpful summary: “Seriousness, reliability, professionalism, efficiency, transparency and value for money.”
The themes of all other answers can be summarized as:
- Understanding sponsors’ expectations and unique objectives and then working closely to deliver on those; not putting every sponsor in the same box.
- Being rigorously honest about what we can deliver and what exposure they will get.
- Honest communication in the negotiation process followed by lots of information throughout the relationship.
- Direct contact with the athletes.
- Thorough feedback with evaluation and reporting; follow-ups and thank yous.
- Good food.
- Making sure they feel like the Club’s top sponsor even if they are mid-tier.
- Providing unique, top quality and personalized experiences.
- Maintaining close personal contacts and relationship.
- Good events.
- Regular acknowledgement through press, at presentations, etc.