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Volvo Ocean Race attracts more than US$50 million in sponsorships during Maryland stopover

By IBI Magazine/Michael Verdon

Organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race have attracted more than US$50 million in sponsorships for the Baltimore and Annapolis stopover, which continues through May 7, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. Local companies are paying cash and donating services to see their names on signs and ads. Constellation Energy Group Inc., Comcast Corp., Verizon and Brown Advisory Securities LLC have signed up. Other sponsors include the state of Maryland, the City of Baltimore and Anne Arundel County.

Constellation Energy is spending US$500,000 to be title sponsor. It is targeting corporate energy buyers who are primarily male, average age of 45 and earn at least US$60,000 each year, Malinda Small, managing director, brand implementation, told the paper. "Sailing is something that resonates with them," said Small.

Volvo Group and Volvo Car Corp. are jointly spending more than US$10 million to have the Volvo name associated with the race worldwide. The race allows Volvo Group to get its name in front of the more than 2,000 suppliers, dealers, shareholders and customers the company entertains at each of the race's eight port of calls, said Margorie A. Meyers, a spokeswoman for Volvo Group North America Inc. The Volvo Group is a commercial transportation manufacturer while Volvo Car Corp. manufactures the popular cars.

"We want our messages to have a good impact on key target groups," Meyers said. "This is a really cool thing to do. It has the 'wow' factor to impress customers." Though interest in sailing is higher in Maryland compared to other parts of the country, "the United States is probably the lowest on the list for knowledge of sailing and popularity of the sport," Meyers said.

Comcast Corp. hopes to reach a broader audience with its $275,000 sponsorship, which includes donated airtime. "Part of their program I think will appeal to a broader base of people," said a Comcast spokesperson.

Local race organizers have also tried to get students interested in the global race. Materials and websites in schools, and a tracking system at the Maryland Science Center, allowed students to track the boats.

New York City is also preparing for a two-day stopover after Annapolis by dredging the marina where the seven boats will stop. The North Cove Marina in New York City is spending US$2.4 million to dredge its facilities. The Manhattan marina, which is six feet deep in some places, will be dredged to 14 feet for the sailboats.

About 25,000 cubic yards of silt from the bottom of the basin will be dredged by May 1, according to a story in the New York Times. "We're certainly paying a premium to have it done quickly," said James Cavanaugh, the president of the authority, which owns the marina. "It's not cheap to move dirt, especially when it's underwater."

The story reported that some members of the board who ratified the decision to spend the money were reluctant, though they passed it unanimously.

But some residents were not happy with the decision, according to the paper. Edward Hersey, a father of two who has lived in Battery Park City for 12 years, said he would rather see the authority spend its money on parks than yachts. "There needs to be more open, public green spaces," he told the paper.

The yachts are expected in New York Harbor on May 8 or 9, from Annapolis. The boats will stay for two days, and sail from Manhattan to Portsmouth, England.

(25 April 2006)

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