Thursday, March 25, 2010

Valencia Sailing talks to Andrew Pindar OBE on sponsoring the sport of sailing and the World Match Racing Tour

Andrew Pindar OBE, Chairman of the Pindar Group, has a long-standing relation with the sport of sailing. Pindar has supported sailing campaigns across every level, ranging from grass roots and local community projects through to match racing and global offshore events at the very pinnacle of the sport. Valencia Sailing caught up with Andrew Pindar and discussed the value he sees in sponsoring the sport, match racing and the World Match Racing Tour in particular.

Valencia Sailing: How long has the Pindar Group been involved in sailing sponsorship? Did you decide to sponsor that sport because you are a sailor yourself?
Andrew Pindar: I have been using the sport of sailing as a way of promoting my business for more than 25 years and over that time we have been involved in many different sailing projects. I do sail myself but just a little bit, so it wasn't about me wanting to fund my own sport. It was because I could see that sailing had a lot of connections, a lot of metaphors with it that were relevant to the changing world of my industry.

In a sense, print communication has been around for as long as sailing and, in recent years, both been through radical changes. Sailing has been completely revolutionized by the use of advanced technology in the hulls, the masts, the sails. It's just incredible to think that you can sail around the world in less than 50 days. You can't do that with a nuclear submarine! Similarly, the printing industry has been completely revolutionized by the use of digital technology, the ability to communicate instantly, the ability to instantaneously send information from a laptop or mobile phone. As a result, I wanted to draw parallels between an old sport and an old industry that have been revolutionized.

We also knew that environmental issues would become even more critical to the world and being associated with sailing helps send the message of environmental responsibility. Printing and industrial companies 50 years ago poured waste products straight into the environment, something unthinkable today. Similarly, people would clean their tanks in the middle of the sea or sailors would just throw things off their yachts with no consideration whatsoever. Again there is a parallel there that can be drawn very easily and I saw that sailing had many assets that would be relevant to the message we wanted to communicate in our marketplace.

Ian Williams and crew celebrating after winning the World Match Racing Trophy. Kuala Terengganu, 7 December 2008. Photo copyright Sander van der Borch / subzero images

Valencia Sailing: What made you focus your sponsorship on match racing and the World Match Racing Tour in the last few years?
Andrew Pindar: Over the last 4-5 years we started taking interest in what was taking place in the world of match racing. I met Mike Sanderson in 2003 and in 2004 he raced with our Open 60 in the Transat. In that year, he and I were invited by UBS, the Swiss bank, to the Saint Moritz Match Race that forms part of the World Match Racing Tour. I really enjoyed the way the event was run, especially the fact that spectators could be very close to the action. The dialups were taking place within 50 meters from the spectator stands. It was exciting, cut-and-thrust, a very good spectacle to watch and the races were understandable to all audiences, whether they were sailors or not, because races were short, happening in front of your eyes and it was clear which boat was going to finish first. People were really enjoying themselves and I thought this was something to learn more about.

In 2005 I went back again as a guest of UBS and Peter Holmberg, who was racing then for Alinghi, introduced me to Ian Williams. I didn't personally know Williams but Holmberg told me he was very good, the next big thing in match racing and most significantly that he didn't have a sponsor. That's when we started working with Ian Williams and getting involved with the World Match Racing Tour.

Being an international company there was also a good fit with the places the Tour visited. For instance there were Tour events in Brazil and a big part of our business is in that country. In addition, Germany, France, Malaysia and Sweden are also very important markets for us and there is a strong overlap with the Tour events. In the second year of our involvement with Williams, there was also a Tour event in San Francisco sponsored by Allianz, which was great as the USA is a very important market for our business.

The World Match Racing Tour has a lot to offer because the events have great visibility and guests can experience top-level sailing themselves through the Pro-Am events. This is something we learned very quickly that our customers really enjoyed. The key difference with offshore racing for example, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre or the Vendée Globe, is that, whilst you can follow them on the internet (which by the way is a great advance) you can't really experience it the same way you can a match racing event, that happens right in front of your eyes. Another key draw is that the match racers have dinner and spend time with the guests and explain what they did during the race and why they won or lost.

We decided to partner with the Tour because we could see that it was going to grow and develop and that what Peter Gilmour and Patrick Lim had achieved with the event in Malaysia was a model of what could be achieved elsewhere on the Tour. The World Match Racing Tour is becoming even more attractive to businesses as the events become bigger and better and in more countries. The Tour receives some great TV coverage and there is a lot of activity going on in the background which attracts spectators, beyond the sailing.

I firmly believe the Tour will keep growing and is an exciting proposition for companies to associate with, either on an event basis, by sponsoring a team or as a partner to the Tour itself. This is why we have been partnering the Tour for the last 4 years. Our main involvement with the Tour is to promote the Pindar business. First and foremost we are looking for brand exposure, for people to see the Pindar name, visit our website and learn more about what we do. It is certainly a great opportunity to take our best clients to the events, whether they are sailors or not, but primarily our main interest is to drive traffic to our website.

Ian Williams and crew racing during the 2009 Monsoon Cup. Kuala Terengganu, 3 December 2009. Photo copyright Sander van der Borch / subzero images

Valencia Sailing: Is the current management's drive to grow the Tour in Asia of interest to you?
Andrew Pindar: Just looking at the way the economies of the world are evolving, there is no doubt that the strength is in the Middle East and Asia and I can't see that going away any time soon. We shouldn't obviously turn our backs on the Americas and Europe but the development and the growth and where people see new opportunity is in the Middle East and Asia.

We have recently launched a sailing initiative in the Middle East, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, called 'Sail Bahrain'. Working closely with the Bahrain Maritime Sports Association (BMSA), Sail Bahrain's key objectives are to develop a sustainable maritime industry, build a water-sports academy, attract international events to the region, nurture the next generation of local sailing champions and unite people from all backgrounds to enjoy leisure pursuits on the water Bahrain is a country with strong maritime traditions and is blessed with an abundance of clear water and plentiful wind. There is a realisation in the Gulf that nautical activities and sailing in particular have enormous potential, given the excellent wind conditions.

Ian Williams is involved with our activities in Bahrain and ultimately we'd like to host a World Match Racing Tour event.

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