Whether you sell tin boats in Wisconsin, flats boats in Florida or express cruisers on Long Island, the celebration at the New York Yacht Club last week marking Sperry Top-Sider’s title sponsorship of the US Sailing Team is positive news for everybody in the business.
Anything that helps promote the excitement, athleticism and pure joy of being on the water lifts all boats — sail and power, large and small, new and used. And Sperry Top-Sider will be the title sponsor — the only title sponsor, for that matter, of any U.S. national, Olympic or Paralympic team — through Dec. 31, 2016, which will cover two Olympic Games.
Olympic sailing this summer runs from July 29 to Aug. 11 off Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour on the south coast of England, where 380 sailors (237 men and 143 women) will compete for medals in 10 events ranging from dinghies to keelboats.
The kind of broad, international exposure the Olympics generates surely captures the attention of both young sailors and youthful would-be sailors and boaters in ways that are difficult to imagine and quantify. And it’s hard to think of better role models and ambassadors for our sport today than members of the US Sailing Team. In today’s celebrity-centric culture, an Olympic athlete still carries the cachet to cut through the noise and deliver a positive message to our youth about being on the water, self-reliance, discipline, boat handling, teamwork, reading the water — and fun.
“The Olympics is one of those rare moments when the entire country tunes in to cheer on the athletes who have dedicated their lives to representing their country. The visibility that sailing receives during the Games helps bring interest to the sport we all love,” U.S. Olympic Sailing Program chairman Dean Brenner said in an email. “With the visibility of sailing at an all-time high during the Olympic Games, the entire sport benefits. It’s no coincidence that Olympic sports receive a bump in participation after every Games.”
When the title sponsorship became available, Sperry Top-Sider president Craig Reingold said the company, a longtime sailing supporter, didn’t hesitate. “When we found out about this, it took about 30 seconds to be a go,” he said last week. “This is a milestone event in the history of our brand.”
In addition to performance footwear that the team helps develop with Sperry designers, the sponsorship in 2013 also will include performance eyewear, accessories and luggage.
Along with its sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic sailing teams, the company sponsors what it called the US Sailing Development Team, which consists of about 50 young sailors who are considered the future of the sport.
As they mature, some of those young sailors are likely to play significant roles in shaping not only the sport of sailing, but also our industry, and anything we can do to support and encourage and nurture them will pay dividends for the health of the industry long-term.
“The fit is very powerful. It’s organic,” US Sailing executive director Jack Gierhart told the group who had assembled in the NYYC’s model room last Thursday. “They understand what we do. It’s just a really good fit.”
Sponsors are critical to running a successful Olympic program, and the United States has set its sights high.
“The goal of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Program is clear: Return to our position as the dominant sailing nation on the planet,” Brenner said in a statement. “And we have similarly ambitious partners who can help us achieve our goals while we help them achieve theirs.”
In addition to title sponsor Sperry Top-Sider, gold sponsors are Rolex Watch USA — probably the sport’s longest-tenured and certainly one of its most important supporters — and Atlantis WeatherGear. Silver sponsors include Harken USA/Team McLube, LaserPerformance and Trinity Yachts. Bronze sponsors are New England Ropes, Group Experiential Learning and Bow Down Training.
Sperry Top-Sider would not disclose the financial terms of the arrangement.
“Our commitment to the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider is central to our goal of helping to build the U.S. team into a global force,” Michele Pytko, the company’s director of performance marketing, told me in an email. “A large percentage of the sponsorship funds will help defray the costs for all of the U.S. sailors and will allow them to focus less on the finances and more on continuing to develop as one of the best sailing teams in the world. The sponsorship will also provide much needed support for the future generation of the sport in the US Sailing Development Team.”
“Sperry is really committed to the sport,” Gierhart says. “They get how it all works, how it all comes together. … Sperry is that foundation for us, that stability. We couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
A good fit … bad pun notwithstanding.