United Airlines Sailing Team
Summary of Activity
Mike Tunnicliffe – Marketing Manager, U.K.
Development of United Airlines Sailing Team
The Ultra 30 Grand Prix circuit was well established as an event when United
Airlines became a boat sponsor in 1997. At the time, Vauxhall Frontera was the
series sponsor. The lightweight Ultra 30s are oversize dinghies with a large
amount of sail and with nine crew on trapezes can be powered up to speeds of
over 25 knots. The boats have three 30 minute races per day over very short
courses close to the shore, providing spectators with spectacular entertainment.
The cost of the boat sponsorship in 1997 was £40,000 including all branding.
The series was televised on BBC Grandstand in the autumn and a media
evaluation was calculated by United’s global advertising agency Young &
Rubicam. The other boat sponsors included DBS, Mobil, Hoya and Save &
The summary analysis of exposure and media value is detailed below:
National Television BBC Grandstand – 10/08/97 £68,514
BBC Grandstand – 28/09/97 £89,344
Press National/Regional/Specialist £201,000
Total media value (excluding regional TV and radio) £358,858
This demonstrates that from a pure media evaluation alone the sponsorship of
the Ultra 30 boat in 1997 achieved a return on investment of at least 9:1.
In 1998, Hoya Vision Care announced it was sponsoring the 10th Anniversary of
the Ultra 30 Grand Prix Series. The other boat sponsors were DBS, Henri Lloyd,
Gul, and David McLean Homes. In addition to the same sponsorship fee, United
sponsored the Yachts and Yachting pull out section detailing the series. The
return on investment was equally impressive.
In the Sydney to Hobart race that year Glyn Charles, skipper of the United
Airlines boat was lost at sea. A memorial trophy was made to present during the
1999 regatta series. Glyn’s sailing partner in a class of boat known as a Star
was Mark Covell. With the loss of his sailing partner, Mark teamed up with Ian
Walker who had lost his sailing partner the previous year in a car crash.
Together they approached United Airlines for support in their bid for the 2000
Olympic Games in Sydney. Soon after, Andy Beadsworth, tactician on the Ultra
and previous Olympian sought backing for his campaign with two team mates in
the Soling class. With discussions about chartering a boat for Cowes Week the
sailing sponsorship now had several different facets. A collective term needed to
be devised for the sponsorship and it was agreed to band everything as the
United Airlines Sailing Team.
The key objectives for the team:
• Complement PR
• Badging exercise for greater brand exposure
• Primary sponsorship as a fundamental part of marketing mix
• Relationship marketing, staff motivation, internal / external communication,
media coverage, link with advertising to communicate brand values, link with
direct marketing (unique access to certain databases), strategic associations
In 1999, the Royal Ocean Racing Club launched a new rule, which resulted in the
world’s first IRM boat racing at Cowes branded as ‘United Airlines’. The 50ft.
‘Mandrake’ served as a means for media exposure and corporate entertainment.
The boat was crewed with a mixture of the owner’s crew and members of United
Airlines Sailing Team. There was space for 6 guests including 1 United host on
each of the racing days at Cowes. The boat was officially entered in the Class 1
regattas and competed for her place alongside other large racing yachts.
The format in 1999 involved boarding the guests at Hamble Point Marina and
sailing across to Cowes. Because it was the first of its kind the media exposure
of the boat was considerable. The cost of the charter was £50,000, which did not
include clothing and additional entertainment. The three objectives were to
obtain media coverage, brand exposure and provide corporate entertainment.
In 2000, United secured a base for entertainment at Cowes Yacht Haven on the
first floor of the harbour masters office. The venue was in an area of activity and
afforded great views over the Yacht Haven and Cowes river mouth. With a base
at Cowes, there was the facility to do some shore entertaining and the guest list
for sailing invitees included their partners. The 60ft yacht ‘Yes’ was chartered for
£43,000 and a similar format was followed to 1999. Guests were taken over to
Cowes on a fast rib, which was branded ‘United Airlines’ and they were served
breakfast at the Yacht Haven. Sailing guests then boarded the yacht and took
part in Class 0 racing for the day whilst the shore guests had time to wander
around Cowes and were entertained to lunch. When the sailing guests returned,
a buffet dinner was served in the Yacht Haven before guests were ferried back
across the Solent to the mainland.
Media attention focussed on the Olympic sailors we had on the boat. A press
day was included in the week and United entertained some key sailing
journalists. This resulted in coverage in the national press as well as specialist
sailing publications. The objectives for Cowes had been met once again with
good media coverage, brand exposure on one of the largest yachts participating
in the racing, and excellent corporate entertaining.
The formula proved so successful in 2000 that it was repeated in 2001 with
another 50ft yacht owned by Peter Harrison called ‘Chernikeef’. The charter was
agreed on a barter basis (20 economy return tickets to Auckland) as part of on-
going negotiations to be the official airline for Peter Harrison’s Americas Cup bid.
United’s presence at Cowes in 2000 and 2001 was enhanced with flags and
banners around the Yacht Haven. In 2001 the main poster site on the Haven’s
shed was taken with an advertisement for United’s sponsorship of sailing.
Star & Soling Olympic Classes
In 2000, United Airlines added the sponsorship of the Soling crew of Andy
Beadsworth, Richard Sydenham and Barry Parkin, to the eight month old
sponsorship of the Star Class crew - Ian Walker & Mark Covell. Marketing
Activity and then Craigie Taylor International (CTI) were employed to maximize
both the coverage and commercial benefits from the sponsorship.
The main objective for the sponsorship was to achieve a five to one media
coverage return on the sponsorships, specifically targeting terrestrial television,
broadsheet newspapers and specialist press.
There were three secondary objectives from the sponsorship:
• To provide a platform for United Airlines sales promotions
• To provide a platform for a corporate hospitality exercise at Cowes.
• To link the sponsorship with a strategic advertising plan, thereby linking it to
The two crews were positioned as the ‘United Airlines Sailing Team’, in order to
maximize coverage of the sponsorship as a whole.
A pro-active media plan for the nine month period prior to the Olympic Games
was devised for:
National broadsheet coverage
Specialist yachting magazine coverage
It was decided that imagery would be the best medium to communicate United
Airlines’ sponsorship. Therefore, a proactive distribution of United Airlines
branded, copyright free photography and television images was instituted.
A proactive Press Office role was undertaken, in partnership with the Royal
Yachting Association (RYA) and within the confines of the Olympic Symbols
Protection Act, in order to achieve regular coverage for the sponsorship.
United Airlines’ involvement was heavily promoted at relevant high profile sailing
Chernikeef RYA Olympic Trials
United Airlines Invitational Regatta
At a tactical level, a number of initiatives were undertaken to ensure that United
Airlines was communicated visually in any coverage achieved on television or in
the written press.
A photo shoot was undertaken at the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, allowing
bright photography of the individual crews and the two boats together. The
further advantage of this was that it involved a substantially higher level of United
Airlines branding than would be permitted by ISAF regulations at a regatta.
Video News Releases
Video News Releases were commissioned, to ensure a high level of news
coverage for the teams and to provide a resource of United Airlines branded
library footage for any other events throughout the year.
CTI’s relationship with APP Broadcast guaranteed a high level of video news
releases at both Cowes Week and at the Olympic Trials.
Feature stories were placed on the crew, most notably at Cowes where the Daily
Telegraph’s chief feature writer came and sailed on ‘United Airlines’. In addition,
a number of features were placed with the specialist sailing writers for
broadsheets and yachting magazines throughout the year.
Regular press releases and stories were issued to promote the crews’
performance throughout the year.
CTI offered advice and consultancy on the United Airlines corporate hospitality
event at Cowes.
CTI also worked on a proposal with the RYA to introduce a discount for their
members on United Vacations holidays.
Chernikeeff RYA Olympic Sailing Trials
In conjunction with the RYA, Marketing worked to ensure that United Airlines was
heavily promoted at this event by effectively managing the press office for this
class. In reality the press releases were written on behalf of United Airlines, but
issued via the RYA, to ensure maximum exposure but avoid the British Olympic
Marketing also co-ordinated a media day for the Star Class, which led to
coverage of this class on Grandstand despite the fact that it was not involved in
Sail for Gold Ball
The Sail for Gold Ball was undoubtedly a huge success for United Airlines, with a
high degree of exposure achieved for a minimum investment. CTI worked with
United’s Marketing Executive to invite high profile sailors and a national
journalist, in addition to co-ordinating a raffle prize.
Marketing also worked to ensure a favourable advertising arrangement that
included United Airlines editorial and photographic coverage. Overall, the link
between United Airlines and Olympic sailing was very strong.
In terms of media coverage, this event was a huge success for United Airlines.
The CTI team organized a very successful media day, that led to some very
valuable features and television coverage.
Fundamental to the success of this day was the fact that CTI used their
relationship with the England cricket team to get Alan Mullaly (England fast
bowler) onto ‘United Airlines’, which proved a great ‘hook’ for the national press,
regional press and local television. In addition to the features written by those on
board: Martin Johnson, chief feature writer for the Daily Telegraph, and Sally
Simmonds from Meridian; CTI also generated coverage on Sky News and Radio
Five from this event.
Throughout the period of Cowes Week, United Airlines benefited enormously
from Cowes Week television and the video news release service from APP.
Again, this was achieved at no cost and the level of coverage was increased by
CTI’s relationship with this production company.
United Airlines Soling Invitational
CTI ran the event management and the press office for this event, devised by
Andy Beadsworth, in conjunction with the RYA. Promoted as the final warm-up
for the Olympics, CTI again worked with the RYA to avoid the strict confines of
the Olympic Symbols Protection Act.
The specialist press and television coverage from this event gave a good return
on investment. However, despite getting United Airlines into the results section
of each national newspaper, the lack of editorial coverage in these publications
was disappointing. The reason for this was that the event was held on the same
weekend as the culmination of a number of major sporting events such as the
Lords Test Match.
The level of television coverage achieved to date in 2000 is outstanding,
surpassing all hopes and expectations. That this has been achieved with very
little investment is remarkable. Whilst CTI worked hard to maximize both existing
and new opportunities, part of this success is due to the success of the team
throughout the year.
The United Airlines Soling Invitational was another example of CTI maximizing a
limited opportunity, ensuring that the branded footage formed the basis for BBC
South’s Olympic preview programming.
Most of the television successes were news stories. Although these were
relatively short in duration, they communicated a good level of branding to a high
The level of coverage achieved in the key broadsheet publications has almost
met the 2000 target set by UAL of a five to one return on investment, without the
assistance of television value. This must be viewed as very encouraging, given
that additional coverage will be achieved between now and the end of the year.
The coverage has been acquired in a number of ways with branded photography
clearly communicating UAL’s branding and website address, meeting one of the
strategic aims of the sponsorship.
The coverage of the sponsorship in the specialist press has been very high, due
to CTI utilizing their relationship with these publications to maximize editorial
interest in the team’s very consistent results.
Liaison with Young & Rubicam also raised the level of publicity in these
magazines, and provided a strong link between the sponsorship and the product.
The overall results on the media coverage are as follows:
Print coverage £186,976
Television coverage £213,528
Overall, this shows an eight to one return on investment from a media buying
point of view, easily surpassing the main objective for 2000.
In addition to this, the sponsorship has also achieved the following:
An extremely high level of goodwill and brand awareness within the sailing
Provided a platform for corporate hospitality and relationship marketing
exercises, such as Cowes.
Provided a platform for sales promotions with the RYA
Provided a platform for advertising to the sailing community
Therefore, all of the secondary objectives have been satisfied to an extent,
although the sales promotions have only just started.
It is clear that the main objective for 2000 has already been surpassed, achieving
an eight to one return purely on media coverage, before any post-Olympic
coverage is achieved. Whilst this was made possible by the team’s results, the
PR strategies and tactics have worked extremely well to maximise the coverage
from this sponsorship. These results have been achieved in spite of a heavy-
handed approach by the British Olympic Association, which endeavoured to
protect the investment made by British Airways.
United Airlines is now viewed as a major sponsor in sailing, with a higher profile
than many companies that invest far more money in the sport. Again this is
partly due to the performances of the sailors and their accessibility to the media,
in addition to the substantial work undertaken to maximize the sponsorship.
The secondary objectives have also been achieved, although the sales
promotion with United Vacations is still in negotiation. It is hoped that this is the
start of the next phase of the sponsorship, to raise the number of sales amongst
the sailing community.
From a corporate hospitality perspective, the concept of sailing with the Olympic
sailors at Cowes Week seemed to work very well, with the majority of guests
enjoying their day out. However, the lack of a proper cuttings service for written
press and a tracking agency for television features has made it very difficult to
fully evaluate the success of the sponsorship. Whilst the absence of these was a
conscious decision made due to budgetary pressures, it is suggested that these
services be brought in for 2001.
Proposals for Continuation of Sponsorship
RYA Match Racing
British Match Racing Program, 2001. ‘United Airlines/RYA British Match Racing
Championship’ and ‘United Airlines/RYA Match Race Open’.
Expected equivalent advertising value of the branding at the United Airlines RYA
Match Racing Open 16th - 20th September 2001.
A stopwatch has been used to record the time length of each exposure of United
Airlines branding of more than one second across the total 41 minutes
Grandstand Programme on the 4th November 2001. The media value is
calculated based on advertising airtime costs as given by ITV based on the same
day, time and demographic target audience of ABC1.
Four different weightings are then introduced designed to take into account
factors which affect viewers recall and recognition of the branding.
In summary, the proposed methodology is:-
Advertising value of brand exposure x quality weighting x frequency factor x time
length weighting x distraction factor.
Equivalet No of 30
30 secs Total second Advertisig Quality Frequeny Time/ Distraction Value
Advertisig number of sections equivalent weighting weighting length weighting £
Value seconds within value weighting
£ coverage coverage
50,000 493 16.43 821,500 1.08 0.7 0.75 0.8 372,632
GBR Challenge & Americas Cup Jubilee
Bronze level sponsor at Americas Cup Jubilee. Sponsor of the trophy for the
race titled ‘Modern Class IRC Division 1, Saturday 25th August 2001. £10,000 +
tickets. Hemispheres article.
GBR Challenge. Official airline in return for special ticket price. Branding as
The next steps for United?
• Marketing objective in the UK
• to overtake American Airlines as the no.3 transatlantic carrier
• to increase business class sales for transatlantic flights
• Objective of sailing sponsorship – now at period where can capitalise on
substantial goodwill and name awareness in sailing community
• Sponsorship for 2001
• Fully integrated sponsorship linking
• Admirals Cup
• Swedish Match Tour
• Corporate hospitality at Cowes Week and Americas Cup Jubilee
Possible benefits for United of increased investment in sponsorship
• Increased national media coverage and name awareness within and beyond
the sailing community (via dedicated television program on terrestrial
• Increased sales through a direct marketing campaign to the RYA and other
• Sales promotions to relevant communities, in conjunction with strategic
• Comprehensive internal communications program
• Relationship marketing program with Mileage Plus members
• Corporate hospitality for company flight buyers