Barcelona, Spain, December 11, 2014 – If we can simplify the sport and make it easier to understand, then sailing has a great opportunity to attract more top-tier sponsors. That was one of the key messages from Dr. Cem Bozkurt, who was taking part in a panel discussion about sports sponsorship here yesterday at the World Yacht Racing Forum.
Dr. Bozkurt, the CEO of Alvimedica, a medical devices company currently taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time, was part of the panel along with Alex Mills, Commercial Director for Sir Keith Mills’ activities in sailing, and Andrew Pindar, Business Partner and Sailing Team Head of GAC Pindar.
“Demystifying a seemingly complex sport is the key to unlocking a wider world of sponsorship,” said Dr. Bozkurt. “We must make it easy for newcomers to come in, understand, and see that it is not that complicated after all,” he said. “In this latest Volvo Ocean Race edition, the sailing program has been simplified in many ways, such as the one-design boats, which makes things easier for Team Alvimedica. This enables Alvimedica to focus on market growth, brand promotion, and other corporate related aspects.”
Dr. Bozkurt told the audience about his first exploratory meeting in Alicante with the CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, Knut Frostad. “When I went to my first meeting with Knut, it was only a few weeks after the end of the previous race. We had the idea of taking part in the ‘Everest of sailing’, but when I went to their offices, my knees were shaking. I was asking Knut, ‘Who should design our boat, who should build our boat?’ For the first two hours, Knut didn't give away any clues that the race was about to go through a big change [to go to one-design VO65s], but after a while he said, 'Take it easy, don't worry about that, we're going to provide you with a boat. So you just need to decide on your budget. We will find some sailors for you.’”
Establishing a one-design model has made the race much more commercially attractive to other potential sponsors, Dr. Bozkurt believes. “In previous races we could never have managed the complexity of the campaign, and I think the Volvo Ocean Race management made a brilliant decision [to go one-design]. Today we see seven teams, and maybe next time we will see 15 entries.”
Dr. Bozkurt, who co-founded the medical devices company in 2007, says the question he is asked most frequently is: “Why is a medical company involved in sailing?” He recalls the original decision-making process that led to where Alvimedica is today. “Even though Alvimedica is a very young company, just seven years old, already we are operating in more than 80 countries. We are well known to our core audience, the cardiologists, but we need to continue to raise brand awareness with them and particularly with the other people they work with, whether it be hospital management or purchasing; at the moment, most of these people have no idea who Alvimedica is.”
With the healthcare industry being tightly regulated by government authorities, and having strict limitations around product advertising, Alvimedica decided that sports sponsorship was the best avenue for raising corporate brand awareness. But which sport? “We analyzed every sport, to see how they fit with our company, our vision, our daily work ethic. We realized that there is only one sport that you can do your whole life, similar to our company’s products and mission in improving human health throughout the lifespan of a patient. Sailing is the only sport a person can do as a child in a boat like an Optimist that allows you to grow with the sport to enjoy later on in life with friends and family. This is what makes sailing such a great match for Alvimedica, because we are focused on supporting optimal health throughout a person’s life.”
Once the company had decided on the sport of sailing as the right branding vehicle, the next decision was the event? “We decided that if we wanted to get into sailing, and make the name of Alvimedica known to people around the world, we had to find the extreme of the sport. All trains need a locomotive, and all youngsters need a hero. So you must create an example, one that makes people say to themselves, ‘That’s what I want to do one day.’ That was why we got involved in the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s a race that inspires people.”
Alvimedica is also leveraging the high profile of the event to raise awareness of health issues. “With our healthcare company profile, we can't just communicate around sport,” said Dr. Bozkurt. “We needed to bring our area of expertise to sailing. So we are running two separate healthcare campaigns during the race. Firstly, in conjunction with three leading universities in Europe, using NASA technology we are supporting an independent clinical trial, that will bring to light important findings around the impact of long-term stress on heart health and the body. Heart health, nutritional status and stress levels of the sailors will be monitored at each stopover and we are also aiming to maintain the best possible health of the sailors.
“Our second campaign aims to increase public awareness of children’s heart diseases within the communities we are visiting. We’re raising donations for local charities which contribute to supporting patients and their caregivers who receive support from these organizations. At each stopover donations are raised through an online auction for a Pro-Am Race and the Jump Seat from the boat at the start of each leg.”
Alvimedica’s participation in the current around-the-world race is just the start of the company’s involvement in sailing. “We have a ten-year plan, in many aspects of sailing. We are here for the long term. We will be promoting sailors and sailing for as long as Alvimedica exists. As far as I know, we are the first team to state that we will be taking part in the next Volvo Ocean Race, in 2017-18.”
Dr. Bozkurt was speaking at the World Yacht Racing Forum. Now in its seventh year, it is widely acknowledged as the leading yacht racing industry conference, where more than 300 key players – event organizers, teams, sponsors, agencies and sailors – gather together and help shape the future of the yacht racing industry.
Team Alvimedica is the youngest entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015, the world's toughest and longest sporting event. The crew is led by American skipper Charlie Enright, age 30. Alvimedica, the European based medical devices company, is the team’s owner. Founded in 2007, Alvimedica is a fast growing challenger in the global field of interventional cardiology, committed to developing minimally-invasive technologies. This is the team’s first entry in the extremely challenging 39,000-mile race that started October 11, 2014 from Alicante, Spain and features stopovers in 11 ports around the world.
– Alvimedica Media