Little School, Little Budget, Tries To Make A Bigger Splash…

The biggest college sports business news in the New Jersey this fall thus far has come from Piscataway obviously, where the Scarlet Knights are finding their way through their first year in the Big Ten across the board in sports large and small, with the loudest noise coming with their upset of Michigan two weeks ago. Whether the move to the Big 10 will benefit the conference, which touts New Brunswick as being just outside New York with every chance they get, or to the University (who should get a bigger cut of the financial pie not just for athletics but for academic programs as well, as the story goes) is up for some debate, but from a buzz and brand story the change seems to be off to a good start.

However Rutgers isn’t the only University in New Jersey with a shot at a sports business bounce. Monmouth and its football move to the Big South Conference should continue to increase its early fall presence, and its place in a vibrant community during basketball season should also continue to help its brand grow during the winter for hoops. Seton Hall’s ever-challenging position in The Big East, along with playing almost all of its games at the cavernous Prudential Center away from campus can be both a blessing in good years and a huge challenge in others, while a school like Rider can find ways to engage in the Trenton-area with business and a community that likes to support its own. Same with St. peters in Jersey City, a mid-major in the MAAC that has done well at times in drawing from the community and the ever-changing makeup around the Yanitelli Center

One program which could be on the upswing as a brand is Fairleigh Dickinson University. Spread out across several campuses, the University’s Division I sports are housed in Teaneck, with hoops playing at the Rothman center, just seconds from a slew of businesses and commuters off of Route 4. Under personable men’s basketball coach Greg Herenda, the school made some nice noise early last year by knocking off both Rutgers and Seton Hall in the same week, a rare double, but went on to have just a 10-21 record for the season. With a slew of new players, FDU should continue to improve on the court, and if so could be in a position from a brand standpoint to make some sports business noise as well.

The biggest reason is Herenda as the face of the program. A basketball lifer, the Jersey City native is one of the most respected and well known faces on the college scene, especially in the Northeast. He has used his personality to up the talent pool, but has also hit the business and student recruiting trail, hosting a weekly radio show on the schools well-listened to public radio station, WFDU on Sundays. His show has had a nice list of guests ranging from Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun to Charlotte Bobcats mentor Steve Clifford and Kentucky’s John Calipari, and no doubt the list will grow over the winter. It creates a niche, especially in the digital space, that can give the Knights a bit of an edge. Then there is the Rothman Center and the community itself. Sitting just a few miles from one of the most vibrant business corridors in the Northeast, the facility is an under-marketed sports gem for casual fans or for brands to activate against, and for families to check out hoops. Finding new and innovative ways to get the players, both men’s and women’s teams, more into the community for events and to use Herenda’s charm to get businesses and local programs to come out and support the Knights is a challenge, but also now presents a great opportunity. The sponsorships may not bring in huge dollars at first, but effective in-kind partnerships with any and all mall employees and businesses in the area can certainly raise brand awareness and can lift the profile and the opportunity of all involved. FDU also has a growing sports marketing program with tis students that could also generate even more awareness in Bergen County, perhaps the most populous county in the Northeast, if not the country, without a pro sports team to support and call its own. So why not the Knights?

Of course there remain challenges. FDU is limited on its marketing budget and staff, and Bergen County presents lots of challenges as well as opportunity to cut through the clutter. The school is still much more known as a commuter school so catching student attention to stay for games without a tradition of winning is also a challenge. However from a brand standpoint, the opportunity appears to be rising for FDU to strike. Families in the burbs are looking more and more for hyper-local affordable entertainment; brands are looking to draw more and more from a local consumer base, the digital space has created more opportunity for fan engagement, and it appears FDU has a coach willing to market and grow as well as achieve success on the court. While it’s not the Big 10, it is still a major market sports business opportunity, one which the Knights can try and seize to get their piece of the pie.

Let’s see if they can score with it this winter.

The FXFL Is Here…Will It Stay?

The allure of minor league sports is very powerful. Doing the right thing, having a great experience with young people as they work their way up the ladder on and off the field, an affordable family experience, a year-round chance for brands both locally and nationally to engage all are great opportunities that happen in a host of professional sports in the United States, from hockey and soccer to hoops and baseball. It is a multi-million dollar cottage industry that has launched thousands of careers.
So into the mix the past few weeks comes the FXFL, the latest in a series of developmental leagues around American football. The premise is that the football talent pool is deep, there is a need to develop that talent, there are other jibs like coaching that need opportunities, and there are rules to be experimented in and brands that are looking to engage that can’t afford the prices of the NFL or are locked out of categories, and there is a whole lot of potential content to be had out there. There are also stadia looking for events, and presumably, there are investors looking to throw money into the dream of sports ownership at some level.
The premise works in other minor league sports, football is arguably the largest and most engaged sport in America, so there has to be a market for it. Right?
So welcome in the four team FXFL, which in two weeks proved what many thought; the talent on the field and in the coaching area is there for more room. They have found a TV home, so there is an interest in content, and they have facilities who want to host games. So that works. They also have set spending limits on talent and have played with rules to help grow the game, so all that makes sense.
The question is; is it a business that can return revenue at some point? That is very hard to say. Staging events, especially football, is a very, very expensive proposition, and gaining market share where money is coming in to justify cost, and investor ROI at some point, is also really really tricky once the buzz of initial exposure wears off and a grind of a season starts. It has been tried before in football, and has never worked, even with the NFL-owned properties a decade ago that tried to develop talent in a smaller setting. Arena football? Some limited success in a different model. The CFL? Much more successful in a culture and a style, and with a TV partner and national brands that have worked for decades. The FXFL in the fall? Tough to say.
Is it fun and engaging? Yes. Is there content to potentially go and do reality or digital programming which could generate interest? Sure. Is there potential as a viable business? Maybe. Will brands look at it, assuming there is a consistent broadcast package and effective and consistent local marketing and sales, to say we want to out our dollars here and activate against and with you? Maybe, but that has to be proven. Will investors step up and buy and operate teams in local markets with substantial capital for years at a time? Hard to say.
The biggest challenge with the FXFL and other parallels like minor league affiliated baseball, the DLeague and even minor league hockey and in some instances soccer now, is that the parent club, major league sports, spends a lot of the cash and in many instances absorbs the L in a P and L. Even in Independent baseball, the possibility exists for those teams, which run greater risk but have good talent, to sell contracts to MLB or MiLB or even Japan for a profit. The FXFL has none of that as a safety net to be innovative or creative and not always look at the bottom line. The NFL, as it has since the failure of the WLAF, watches with no risk and simply picks up the talent with no cost or effort. They are quietly supportive with n involvement, which is a great situation to be in.
Would it be great if the FXFL bucks the trend of minor league football, finds investors and cities willing to support with a media company diving in for a partnership akin to what the NHL and NBC had at one point? Sure. Would it be great for brands to come on board with fixed partnerships that involve cash to raise the bottom line? Yes. Success of the FXFL is a success for everyone involved in sport.
Will it work? It is great the investor group got the league up and running to prove concept. That already is ahead of scores of others who have just talked and spent and never saw the light of day. If it is long term and viable, we will see hopefully next fall and the one after that. Ideas and sports are great, but in the end bottom line is what matters in sports business. Time, and dollars, will tell.

Gordo’s Takes A Dip Into College Football, Scores A Brand TD…

It’s not like a cheese dip is always top of mind when tied to large scale and effective sponsorships, but one has found a niche through the world of college football this fall. Gordo’s Cheese Dip used not massive advertising, but old fashioned word of mouth and new age social media engagement to create a great deal of buzz and value add by attaching themselves OUTSIDE some of the biggest NCAA games this fall to find the ultimate tailgater, a natural connection to the snack product.
The search for the Gordo’s Ultimate Tailgater began on September 15, 2014 and continues through November 23, 2014. It includes some of the best college football teams including: Ole Miss vs. Boise State, Alabama vs. West Virginia, LSU vs. Auburn, Notre Dame vs. Florida State just to name a few.

The premise for this search for the ultimate fan is simple. The Gordo’s Cheese Dip video crew will be at each of these games, looking for fans who have an overabundance of school spirit. These rabble rousers will be interviewed on camera and from these interviews, three contestants will be chosen each week. The hashtag for this contest is easy to remember. It’s #GordosUTG. Fans are given a chance to vote for a weekly winner. These weekly winners will be lavished with a fabulous tailgate rig which includes two chairs a cooler, speakers and umbrella.  Over the course of the season, Gordo’s is choosing eight winners and these fans will vie for the title of Big Cheese…the Gordo’s Ultimate Tailgater. Voting will continue for two weeks to determine which fan along with a companion gets to choose his/her favorite college bowl game to attend.
The video crew has hot the biggest strategic points, wandering parking lots looking for the best parties, many with no ties at all to the product until arrival. Some have been clued in by social media prompts beforehand, but the goal is to create an unabashed best practice scenario, with a great slice of tailgating from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa, from Tallahassee to South Carolina. The cost was minimal, the exposure very high as the crew concentrated on select southern markets with a payoff coming later this winter for winners. The win for Gordo’s is in the engagement of fans in a natural environment; they use viral video (over 8 million views to date) and photo walls to engage, and spend little on traditional advertising once the game starts. They take advantage of the wide open expanses of parking lots and the beauty of southern football, not to mention the he success of the SEC on the field this fall, to build affinity, awareness, and lots of fun. The product, and the campaign are not about major market spends. It is about finding ways to engage fans with an easy to understand product that fits their lifestyle.
The result is a low cost and highly effective win, even through mid-October. A well thought out and well executed program, with a little luck of the schedule thrown in for a smart snack brand.

Warriors Tweedia Day Scores Again…

Now it’s not like teams haven’t figured out the need for use of social media or the power it now has in engaging fans. Still, harnessing that power into some centralized events is sometime a challenge. Then again you have the Golden State Warriors, who continue to refine the aggregated space and recently staged one of the best engagement platforms any team does; Tweedia Day.
Now in its fifth season, Tweedia Day follows the Warriors usual media day open house, the team when every player lines up to get done the wide variety of tasks from community relations, marketing and general media that can be housed and used throughout the year. Want to hear players doing promos in Chinese for the NBA? Media day is for you. It is very insular and usually pretty predictable, with now NBA TV dropping in for some live sessions for fans. But fan interaction? Nah, it’s all business.
For Tweedia Day, the Warriors give fans, through several platforms but especially though twitter, the ability to connect with players in real time. Factor in some live contests and some special added value areas for season subs, and Tweedia Day has become a must opt in for fans in the Bay Area and around the world. It is a nice aggregation of every member of the Warriors staff in a pretty simple but very effective format that most teams do as one-off’s but rarely as one full session. It takes time sure, but it leaves a lasting impression on all those who can join in. And of course, it is sponsorable.
Of course it’s not the only element of digital engagement that the Warriors do to build marketshare. From blogger media day to innovative video work, Silicon Valley’s team always seems to be fast and first in innovative engagement. Once again, a nice score for Golden State.

Oyo Boyo, A Simple Idea Keeps Getting Bigger…

Several years ago when I was with the New York Knicks we were planning a promotion around Allan Houston, and as part of the plan, were going to send out to interested media the LEGO figure that had been made of our-then star, as a way to keep him top of mind when award voting season came along. It was quick, easy to mail and very unique amongst collectables. Did it really look like Allan? Not really but it was official and had his number, so it made sense. We found a way through the NBA to get 50 little Allan’s and off they went. As a collector of the unique, as well as a longtime supporter of LEGO, I had been interested in the possibilities of the product to engage sports kids, and somewhere in our basement, not passed on to my son Andrew, a master builder if there ever was one, are the original NBA-licensed sets as well as some hockey and extreme sports sets as well. They are now all collectors’ items, as the patients, and LEGO’s interest in sports, stagnated after a few years and the patents lapsed.

The problem then was that the Danish company didn’t really “get” the sports market in the States, and the risk of getting the wrong LEGO figures to market, they could not produce every player, far outweighed the rewards. In an era before short form video, 3D printing, and high speed molds, let alone self-generated content, LEGO was probably ahead of its time.

That was then, and to the delight of millions, another US-based company has taken LEGO’s seed, and their lapsed patents, and injected digital media and state of the art engineering into and opportunity. Welcome OYO Toys.

Boston based and now Boston-area manufactured, OYO has taken the old LEGO-licensed idea and brought it into the next decade. They have licenses to manufacture products for MLB, NFL, NHL and MLS, with more coming not just in the US, but internationally as well (how many kids in the States will now buy Messi figures who would not have a few years ago, thanks to soccer’s expansion in the media here?). Their system allows for custom printing and design of almost ANY player they have a license for that people can order, with delivery taking only a few days.

More importantly, OYO has used video, data and technology to bring the figures to life in short form video with self-created “stadia,” which thousands of young people with an interest in sport AND film (along with their dads and older siblings) can have fun with in re0creation scenarios, much like LEGO has done with the Star Wars themes line.  Even better, the figures are compatible with LEGO blocks, so parents don’t have to discard those mounds of blocks sitting around the basement. The kids can build stadia, or other scenarios, and use the OYO sports figurines as well.

The best part about OYO’s potential is that it again seeks to marry what were once divergent worlds for young people. Like robotics, LEGO were once thought to be nerdy and not for “sports” kids. Same with film and full motion video, or even photography. Now OYO can help merge those world’s, and make the arts and building good for “sports” kids, especially on rainy days, and can probably help the kids once thought to be a bit “nerdy” and not engaged in sports find a common ground as well. That merging doesn’t just help at home, it will help in the classroom, as suddenly science and technology, and even engineering, may seem just a bit more cooler to kids who might have been bored with sports. It also doesn’t hurt that media companies like Nickelodeon and Marvel are looking to find ways to pull sports into entertainment, and OYO’s analytics, video, and interchangeable parts can also play right into their plans as well.

Are there some limitations? Sure. Making the figures as life-like as possible is a challenge, and there is probably a limit as to how many figures the company can customize for now. However the upside and potential for OYO in any host of sports, even on the NCAA level, is very bright, and certainly makes their business one to watch. The Boston Globe had a piece the last few days on how the company came about and its new infusion of cash from Mandalay Entertainment, which is certainly worth a read.

Keep building OYO, and we will keep watching. What was a rare fail for LEGO is an opportunity for you.

Cold Sport, Hot Property: NHL Gets Things Going…

The Sochi Olympics are in the rear view mirror, there is labor peace, the Cup is basking in Southern California warmth for the fall and winter, there is talk of new ownership and even expansion and some of the biggest markets seem primed for a solid season on and off the ice. All signs are that the NHL is ready to take another step forward, and the league looks ready to take advantage of all those factors and then some. Here’s some reasons why

Tech Keeps Coming

GoPro, let’s go. The NHL’s point of view focus has helped changed the way fans can engage and watch the game both online and in broadcast, and now their partnership with GoPro can give that view an even bigger boost. Drop micro cameras here there and everywhere, and down the line give fans the ability to choose from Henrik cam or Trotz cam and the choices for intimate engagement, not to mention viral video will be endless. The partnership with Go Pro also generated some great buzz during a quiet preseason for the league, and dovetails nicely with the leagues investment in the mobile space.  In 2013, the league rolled out team-specific mobile applications, and invested heavily in mobile video and live streaming. Tie that to a new way for fans to view, and you have a very smart mix sent to your hand-held device, all sponsorable and sharable for fans.

Krafting A Brand Message

Along with MLS, the NHL has been the home for new brands looking to find their way into major sport in the US in recent years, as well as for some traditional brands looking to re-jig their image with a demo that is highly engaged and a bit younger.   In 2014-15 Kraft will create “Kraft Hockeyville 2015,” a program which will support hockey at a local and community level, giving kids a chance to lean and becoming a home for communities where the game is embraced and enjoyed already. Kraft will be giving local communities a chance to win $150,000 for an arena, rink and/or facility makeover, and then have then refurbished arena play host to an NHL preseason game on national TV.

TV Takes

The NBC partnership with the NHL continues to evolve in various ways, the biggest of which will be cross promoting hockey and soccer and then driving all ancillary hockey fans to a night which the league can own throughout the year, and that appears to be Wednesdays. No football to really speak of, college hoops pushes towards early week and weekends, and the NBA has taken Thursday with Turner, so the NHL can focus on mid-week excitement, the night when their ratings have already shown a dramatic uptick.  The league’s 12 year deal with Rogers Communications in Canada also affords them more of an innovative platform that breaks a little with tradition and helps re-invigorate the strong sports brand up north, while bringing Ross Greenburg back to re-engineer the Road to The Winter Classic and “The Road To the Stadium Series” with new partner EPIX will also provide a new, fresh and added edge for broadcast fans of the sport. All of which brings new glitz, new focus and new voices to an already growing broadcast audience for hockey.

So as the season begins this week and into the weekend, will hockey suddenly vault over baseball, hoops and football in terms of engagement? Not yet, but not that it has to. Hockey has done a good job of realizing that its first goal was to embrace and cultivate its core, like soccer has, and then go from there to find new audiences. It has really done a solid job with step one, and continues to find ways to infiltrate step two all of which makes for a compelling story, and for smart business, as fall arrives and the ice starts settling in. Solid product in the building, solid extensions outside will make NHL a warm property for cold North American nights.

AT and T Scores With #Techgating

The amount of ways any collegiate partner, let alone an NCAA partner, can effectively engage with a young and vibrant audience grows every day. The most important element remains targeting the audience you are trying to reach so that you are not wasting time, and more importantly sponsorship dollars. Case in point is NCAA partner AT and T and their wide ranging partnership activation platform this fall.

AT&T, and NCAA Corporate Champion, have launched  #techgating. The define it as: “Where tech meets the tailgate to create a better game day.” At select college football games this season, AT&T will have an AT&T Fan Zone Tour Truck or its Amplified #Techgating Tour Truck on campus to promote #techgating. Fans can engage in a number of activities from a fight song mash-up station to a social-enabled photo booth. The key is original branded content using the students, alumni and interested fans as the focal point of the project. The more original user-generated content, the more compelling the content will be. It’s not cookie cutter and it helps each school carve its own brand identity. The program will look to capture images and content of all kinds from a wide swath of schools from Oregon to New Jersey, and will continue to post the content in real time on its own branded site, as well as micro-sites for the games they are coming in for.  There is no limit to devices used to upload, which helps AT and T expand its message of portability and accessibility with mobile technology.

Of course there’s a payoff for original content for registered users with various prizes leading to tickets and access for the 2015 College Football Championship Game.  The season-long activation is a smart way to tie local to national while keeping AT and T top of mind with consumers for their investment, all leading back to Dallas and the night when the first playoff champion is crowned.  A smart way to convey core messages while pulling together the most important part of a contest tied to digital; unique, user-generated content. Nice score for the NCAA, for the fans, and certainly for a key brand partner for college football’s biggest conferences.

Great Cross-Promo For An Iconic Gift: The Hess Toy Truck Hits 50…

This weekend I received a call to action postcard about the 50th anniversary of a collectable icon; The Hess Toy Truck. In a time of quick and easy, fast and fun and on to the next thing, the Hess Toy Truck has endured for generations. It has stayed true to its brand; solid, well designed always with a surprise or two, and always with batteries included. Kids, especially boys, of almost every generation love the trucks, and as they get older even keep it on the holiday list as a collectable even in places where Hess gas stations at least may be a thing of the past.

Now Hess is no small mom and pop organization. Founded originally in 1919, the company has been in the oil and gas business since that time and today operates largely in the Northeast, with refineries throughout the world. Its ties to sport, especially in football, stem from the 1960’s when President Leon Hess bought and operated the New York jets, which his family controlled for decades. The Hess Company green and white ties directly to the Jets colors still worn today.  

Over the years Hess has been involved in various forms of sports sponsorship outside of the Jets (where they still put in a good amount of time and effort), ranging from the NY/NJ Super Bowl to the Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Rays, the Pinstripe Bowl, Special Olympics, the Yankees, Arthur Ashe Kids Day, and even projects like the fields at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sponsorships have always bled over to their retail stations who hosted and housed promotions around the teams they sponsored, usually in the traditional forms of giveaways. No huge TV campaigns or social promotions; very basic and effective calls to action that helped draw in consumers and raise some awareness of the Hess brand in a crowded marketplace.

However nothing draws interest like the Hess trucks. Still sold at gas stations as well as online, the trucks and their accessories probably have more brand awareness with consumers than the gas stations themselves, or the teams the brand has sponsored over the years, and making it to 50 with a strong annual consumer promotion these days is certainly the stuff of legend, at least a consistent legend anyway.

So as the Hess toy truck hits 50 this winter, are there sports brands that can tie in to amplify the program and get some additional brand affinity. While not a major tie, is there a little NASCAR driver promo that can create awareness, maybe even as a giveaway? Can some of the Hess partners; the Jets, the Yankees etc., find a way to tie to the truck with some of their own living legends for a promo?

For sure the Hess toy trucks, especially with such a grand anniversary, will move this year with consumers. The question is will some of the sports brands long affiliated with Hess find some creative ways to share the spotlight? We shall see. Anniversaries for such a hallmark promotion don’t come along every day.

Selfie Olympics? I Saw An Ad…

It is always interesting to see what attacker brands will do to try and cut through the clutter. This past week there was a half-page ad in the New York Times from the Chinese cell phone company Meitu, in English and Chinese, in the form of an “Open letter” to IOC President Thomas Bach.

The letter asked President Bach to consider making “selfies” an Olympic sport, and mentioned the company’s just-completed “Selfie World Championship” and massive engagement of people using cell phones to take pictures as evidence of the recognition of “selfie-taking” as an Olympic sport.

Interesting attention getter for a brand not yet known in the US mainstream, especially in sport, but one willing to find a way to start cutting through the clutter in a simple way to get attention, or at least start to gain some attention in the massive space.

Now there is no doubt that “selfies,” even though some have said they have jumped the shark a bit, are still an ongoing phenomenon. The selfie’s around sport that surfaced in the World Cup, during The Boston Red Sox visit to the White House (where David Ortiz caused a stir with a selfie with President Obama), with the Stanley Cup and in thousands of other places are still being taken and shared around the world. Instagram has become the sharing service of choice for consumers, and sport has taken notice and continues to work in ways to engage fans through genuine fan generated images. This weekend there will be thousands of photos, many “selfies,” generated and shared through the MLB Playoffs, college football and the NFL, all showing various levels of fun fan, and sometimes brand, engagement.

So that brings us back to Meitu and their ad, the “Olympic” tongue-un-cheek outreach, and what it could mean. It was simple; no pictures, no hashtag, no website mention for fans to engage. The facts were clear, the message was there, albeit probably tongue in cheek. Why no call to action at all? Furthermore a search, at least an English language search, for the selfie world championship yielded…one blog post mention. That’s it. A 2013, Selfie World Championship did have posts but wasn’t tied to Meitu in any way.  All of which leaves the strategy for the upstart cellphone company as a bit of a mystery, but maybe that’s the goal.

Now because there is no English language engagement doesn’t mean that Meitu’s engagement in China or other parts of Asia to this point was not effective; there are massive social media sites in China that are not yet English-language or western friendly, so it could be that this was a first step, with not a lot to offer the American sports consumer yet. Maybe the ad was meant to be provocative as a start, with more to come; see what engagement or interest comes from American brands, or even sports organizations looking to engage with an attacker brand in the space, and go from there. Still without any call to action, how would one track or engage that easily? And what if you missed the ad? Almost none of the twitter chatter about the brand is in English, which leads to even more mystery as to the strategy.

Maybe in the end this was a one-off, some kind of outlier play by an ad agency looking to spend some money; large money for a New York Times ad, and leave it at that. That would be hard to believe. What will be interesting to see if there is a follow-up, a viral advancement in English-language sports and an escalation of marketing and spending for the brand with new partners in this country. Is this some kind of play for the Olympic space? Is it a way for an attacker brand to find a way in with athletes?

It certainly is curious; whether it worked, whether it gains traction, is all up in the air. Did you see the ad? Were you curious or confused? I was…or should I have said “meitu?”

Sponsorship Sailing Along On the High Seas…

It’s an unusual property with some unique brand partners, so we asked the folks at the Volvo Ocean race to break down the biz…

In 2012, the Volvo Ocean Race organizers announced a huge shift to a one-design boat that would be used by all entries. The idea was to lower the price – and barriers – to entry for any potential sponsors that wanted to be part of the around-the-world race that began life in 1973 as the Whitbread Round-The-World Race.

By going to a one-design race, cost for entering and running a campaign has been roughly cut in half from about $10-15 million – not including marketing or sponsorship activation which is entirely up to the individual sponsor. The rule change has also allowed late entries into the race by eliminating the development time for teams to design, test and build their own boats in the preceding 2-years. Lastly, it has leveled the playing field. No longer does a sponsor have to fear having a  “slow boat” at the start line, competing at a disadvantage the entire way around the ocean race track.

After declining participation over the past decade, the race has had an uptick in competitors to seven boats for the 2014-15 race, the race’s 12th edition. Considering that the last few races have had six different sponsors entering boats (in previous editions sponsors could enter two teams) this is certainly a step in the right direction – if a small one. But perhaps more impressive are the types of sponsors that have entered the race, including several global conglomerates. And this is perhaps the biggest statement yet of the future potential of the one-design rule.

Let’s take a quick snapshot of each of the seven sponsors behind the teams.

Team:                          Abu Dhabi Ocean Race

Country:                     United Arab Emirates

Skipper:                      Ian Walker (GBR)

Sponsor(s):                Abu Dhabi is sponsored by the Middle East emirate itself with the country’s logo and branding splashed across the boat. Abu Dhabi is also a sponsor of the race and hosts a stopover – the first city in the Middle East to host the race –giving Abu Dhabi multiple branding points. National airline Etihad has on-board branding, as does race sponsor IWC watches.

Team:                          Dongfeng Race Team

Country:                     China

Skipper:                      Charles Caudrelier (FRA)

Sponsor: Dongfeng Race Team is sponsored by Chinese truck giant Dongfeng Trucks.

Team:                          Team Alvimedica

Country:                     Turkey/USA

Skipper:                      Charlie Enright (USA)

Sponsor: Turkish medical device company Alvimedica has sponsored this team taking the storyling of being the youngest team in the race with predominantly under-30 sailors – similar to Alvimedica’s positioning as a young medical company. The team made the smart decision to brand itself as a joint U.S./Turkish entry to increase media coverage in the U.S. around skipper Charlie Enright (29) from Bristol, RI.

Team:                          Team Brunel

Country:                     Holland

Skipper:                      Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Sponsor: Brunel might not be that well known in the U.S., but they are a global giant with 13,000 employees and offices in more than 40 countries offering professional staffing and project management services. Brunel has previously sponsored a team in the race and Holland’s seafaring heritage make this an interesting campaign.

Team:                          Team SCA

Country:                     Sweden

Skipper:                      Sam Davies (GBR)

Sponsor: You may have never heard of SCA but chances are you have used their products almost every day. SCA is a leading global hygiene and forest products company with brands like Tempo, Tork, Lotus and many others. You’ve likely dried your hands or wiped food using their napkins hundreds of times. There are sponsoring the race’s only all-female entry under the brand premise of women’s empowerment.

Team:                          MAPFRE

Country:                     Spain

Skipper:                      Iker Martinez (ESP)

Sponsor: MAPFRE is Spain’s leading insurance company, the fourth-largest insurer in the world, and also the No. 1 insurer in Latin America with offices in 47 countries and more than 36,000 employees. They were late to announce their sponsorship but their bright red boat with massive MAPFRE logo goes well with their corporate branding.

Team:                          Team Vestas Wind

Country:                     Denmark

Skipper:                      Chris Nicholson (AUS)

Sponsor: World largest wind turbine company is sponsoring a team in a race powered by the wind. We can’t thing of a better synergy in sports sponsorship – and its slogan – “Wind. It means the world to us.” – is quite pithy for the around-the-world race.