Dec 6, 2008

India - Kerala looks to use global yacht competition to promote tourism


Kochi: The second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race—from Cape Town to Kochi—concluded here when a Russian team, the last of eight, called at the port on Thursday night.
The third leg of the yacht race—held every three years that circumnavigates the earth—starts on 13 December when the competitors leave for Singapore. This is the first time the race has included an Indian port of call.

While the race is a high-profile marketing platform for global brands, such as telecom company Ericsson and sports goods manufacturer Puma, Kerala is looking to tap into it as a way to promote tourism at a time when the industry has been hit by a global economic slowdown and the Mumbai terror attack.
The Cochin Port Trust and the Kerala tourism department are co-hosts for the stopover, which has seen an influx of mostly domestic tourists. Officials here are hoping the presence of a number of sailing teams, officials and people associated with the race from across the globe will help them attract tourists.
“It’s a mix of sports, tourism and business,” said N. Ramachandran, chairman of the Cochin Port Trust.
The regatta around the globe that typically takes nine months to complete, started from Alicante in Spain on 11 October and will conclude at St Petersburg in Russia in late June. Formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, the race is expected to cover 39,000 nautical miles. One nautical mile is equal to 1.85km.
For now, however, it is companies that sponsor teams or otherwise promote themselves through the race which are the ones reaping the benefits.
“It makes sense to use this as a platform for us, a global player in the telecom industry, and turn this into an event for meeting our customers who can converge at a place,” said Richard Brisius, manager of the Ericsson racing team that has sponsored two yachts. The Ericsson 3 yacht emerged as the winner in the second leg, arriving at Kochi three days ahead of its expected arrival date of 3 December. Ericsson 4 came in third.
Brisius, who was part of the sailing team in the race in 1989 and 1992, said these stopovers are also spots where its customers gather and where sales and marketing activities are undertaken.
During the last race three years ago, the company met over 4,500 customers, most of them represented by senior officials. Planning for these marketing activities were started two years earlier.
Brisisus, however, admitted there are limitations since the stopover is just at one port in India. But rather than holding a series of meetings, linking marketing with the sport helps in adding value to its brand,he said.
In some of the countries such as Singapore, China, Brazil and the US, there is also a small race at the port, which will attract a lot of people, giving more promotion to the brand, he said.
For Puma, the sports goods manufacturer, which has brand ambassadors such as soccer player Pele and 2008 Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, the race is a platform to give credibility and visibility to the brand, said Rajiv Mehta, managing director of Puma Sports India Pvt. Ltd. “Puma is among the very few firms that is also into manufacture of race and sail apparatus which is being used by most yachts and their sailors in this race. And this should give the company more credibility in its step to get into lifestyle business,” he said.

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