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America’s Cup: Trying to Walk Before Learning to Crawl

Americas cup Trophy 3

Larry Ellison’s team may have successfully defended the America’s Cup in 2013, but the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) he formed to manage the event failed to fulfill his goal of a commercially sustainable model.

Despite sweeping changes to the America’s Cup, with significant investment in organization, equipment, and promotion, the costs of the 34th edition were not recovered.

By all appearances, the commercial shortcomings can’t happen twice. The mandate for the 35th America’s Cup to “make sense” remains a priority. But instead of fine-tuning the 2013 plan, the model has seen another significant overhaul.

“A lot needs to change,” Ellison explained. “We want to keep the best of the past and combine it with modern technology. We want to create a 21st century sports business that will support sailing professionals and their families. Businesses that don’t make money are not sustainable. Sports that don’t make money are just hobbies for rich guys.”

Will Ellison win the ‘Commercial Cup’ in 2017? In this commentary by Neil W Humphrey, he sees the event trying to walk before learning to crawl…

Maybe the AC/ACEA is not like the Gods of sports like the IOC or FIFA where they can pretty much demand the heavens from the hosting city. Like a baby, the ACEA is unable to walk. It hasn’t grown up to walk like the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL where they prefer their major events in already made facilities. They each have almost centuries of living planning formulas for their marquee events that have given them huge track records of commerce in a worldwide following.

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Maybe our baby, the AC/ACEA, in its present form is nothing more than a centuries old pop-up event that has no living planning formula with a given track record of commerce. Each new AC event is basically a new sports and commercial pop-up event, rolling the dice. As a pop-up event, the AC doesn’t have the world-wide TV following, it doesn’t have the world-wide fan or traveler following, it doesn’t have the confidence of Major Sponsors or TV which needs firm dates and locations, and it doesn’t even have the confidence of its potential participating clubs of nations who rely on sponsorships with timeline budgets.

Maybe our baby, the AC/ACEA, needs to learn to crawl before trying to walk in the world of commercial sporting events. Right now our AC/ACEA is falling over once again and getting bruised in the world-wide media, which we need for news and commerce for the event to be a success with Major Sponsors or TV.

Maybe our raising of our baby, the AC/ACEA, needs to go back to centuries of tradition rather than rushing to commercialization. Maybe it’s more important for the AC to be more associated or connected to the grassroots of the sport and introducing the sport to the middle class. Right now, this pop-up event comes across as a pop-up event for those few associated with Millionaires and Billionaires. Why would taxpayers of cities roll the dice to support an event like that with such a small cross-section of the population getting involved?

Maybe the Defender should stop dragging out the processing time for the AC pop-up event in years, due to the ACEA not being realistic. Maybe the Defender’s club home waters in San Francisco, USA with its reliable breeze, great natural sailing arena, and consistent weather is the best ‘traditional’ place and cost-effective place to race. Maybe paying for the city of San Francisco’s extra policing and etc is the right thing to do for a major pop-up event with no track record. Maybe most major pop-up events with commercial track records pay for a city’s extra cost. Why should the AC be any different? It’s certainly not the IOC, FIFA or any of the major leagues marquee events.

Maybe keeping the AC in San Francisco, where there was success on all fronts, and learning to build upon those successes is the best ‘maybe of all’ to raise a baby that is still crawling as a major sporting pop-up event. Maybe…….

Editor’s note: Maybe what the America’s Cup needs is a Protocol that includes two editions. If commercial viability is a goal, the event’s lack of consistency is proving to be its greatest obstacle. For all the sweeping changes that are being initiated, why isn’t a long view among the list?

*Original story: Scuttlebutt Sailing News via Google News (search term: sailing)
*Image Credit: Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker
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