Clipper Ventures look for more added value and local business engagement

Jonathan Levy has held a series of roles at Clipper Ventures, which organises the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Here he offers his insights into what makes an ideal host city for an event organiser.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Boats, lead by the 'GREAT Britain' yacht, depart from St Katharine Docks for the start of the 'Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race' on September 1, 2013 in London, England. The race is set to be the largest in the event's history with 12 yachts manned by 670 crew from over 40 different nations. The 40,000 mile, 8 leg course is set to visit six continents and take approximately eleven months to complete. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

What are the key considerations that an organisation such as Clipper Ventures takes into account when choosing a host city?
Initially there are the practical considerations of whether the geographical location is realistic, in terms of being within the global route limitations and prevailing conditions for the time of the year we would be there.

In addition, the available port and marina options must meet our specifications to accommodate up to twelve large ocean-racing yachts and the associated facilities. However, this is only the first step to qualification.

Some main deciding factors include the attractiveness of the location for our crew, supporters, sponsorship partners and other stakeholders in terms of variety and quality of accommodation, leisure and tourist attractions. Local business markets and consumer profiles relevant to our partners for their activation activities are also important, together with sufficient space and catering facilities. Good proximity to international and feeder airports for race officials, guests and supporters to reach the host city – including good local public transport and infrastructure – are also important factors that come under consideration.

After these aspects the big influencers and differentiators are how much added value the host destination will bring in terms of events and marketing to maximise public awareness and develop a complementary programme of events, or even a themed festival, built around our presence. This will help maximise visitor numbers and create atmosphere and animation, leading to strong economic impact and return on investment for the hosts. If a destination is also investing in a team partnership, by taking the branding and activation rights of one of the race yachts for a global promotional campaign, this will prioritise their selection over destinations of an equivalent standard.

How have these considerations changed over the years? Which issues have become increasingly important?
Definitely creating more added value and local business involvement. We also aim to make our carbon footprint in terms of shipping support materials and facilities around the world as low as possible.

We focus on a core fan zone around which our partners can activate as appropriate. The local host can create a broader race village with attractions for a wider audience, and not just sailing enthusiasts. This creates a win-win situation for all parties.

What are the reputational and economic impacts that have been experienced by host cities of the Clipper Round the World Race?
Economic impact, reputation and global profile, and local pride and public engagement are all important factors, in addition to showcasing a destination and its marine facilities, together with strong legacy. We encourage both independent and collaborative research and evaluation.

For Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland, which is participating in the race for three editions, this has grown into a comprehensive event along its river waterfront: in the 2015-16 race edition the city reported over 10,000 hotel bed nights – an economic impact in excess of £3m (€3.4m/$3.9m) from a footfall of 163,000 visitors, with 25 per cent from outside

Northern Ireland. 98 per cent of respondents thought it improved the city’s global image. The impact of the 2017-18 edition was even greater but we are awaiting the final report.

Early research commissioned by Culture Liverpool (which hosted the start and finish of the Clipper Race in the 2017-18 edition) conducted by North West Research and Strategy, suggests that the major event created at the Clipper Race start from the UK in August 2017 created a substantial economic boost to Liverpool and has been responsible for a £7.51m boost. The Clipper Race drew some 220,000 visitors during the week-long schedule of festivities at Albert Dock.

The event evaluation report, which monitors the impact of major events in the cultural programme, looks at recorded activity over and above what would have been expected without the Clipper Race presence. It concludes that the event drew a higher proportion of visitors coming from elsewhere in the country than any other recent event and attracted nearly double the number of visitors from overseas – 10.4 per cent over 5.5 per cent.

The report also gained insights into the motivations and key drivers for attendance, visitor expenditure, quality of experience and length of stay. It suggests that 69 per cent of respondents were visiting Liverpool specifically to attend the Clipper Race event and 35.7 per cent of visitors were on trips with the average stay of three nights, an increase of 15 per cent in such visitors in comparison to similar events.

The city stated that in addition to economic benefits, as a worldwide event, the Clipper Race Start in Liverpool has further cemented the position of the city’s waterfront as a world-class event stage.

Global media exposure is significant for host cities, not only around the period of hosting but also in references throughout the race year and within the global TV series which reaches over 900 million households in more than 170 countries. If they are also a Team Partner then there is a big multiplier in raised global awareness.

Are you noticing any particular spectator trends for your events?
The global profile of the Clipper Race continues to grow and, combined with greater media exposure, we are driving greater awareness and visitor numbers – turning out at all times of day for arrivals; strong interest for free boat tours, meet the crew, the fan zone and added attractions and entertainment.
While weekends are always strong there is a steady flow throughout the week, with peaks around lunchtime and in the early evening.

What have been the main lessons that have been learned from the staging of your events in recent years and how are they being applied to future editions?
In some respects, less is more and is better to focus on key quality installations and events with a clear programme of public engagement and partner activation.
The host destination is also given many opportunities to benefit local businesses. This trend is likely to continue as the public are attracted by the human stories and challenges taken on by our crews.

The cost of hosting major events is increasingly scrutinised. What can rights-holders such as Clipper Ventures do – alongside host cities – to portray the positive impact of staging an event?

As indicated above, good evidence from other hosting destinations combined with a clear sense of bespoke objectives, KPIs and research can reveal a positive impact. Wider public engagement is important and we make very clear the accessible nature of our event, opportunities for associated educational programmes, youth involvement and free entry. Our crews are readily available – we are far from the stereotype imagined of sailing as a sport only for the elite few. We are a mass-participation global challenge that captures the public imagination.

Skipper Olivier Cardin poses with the winners trophy as his LMAX Exchange Clipper race crew celebrate coming first in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, at Katharine Docks on July 30, 2016 in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

As a rights-holder that takes events around the world, where are the most exciting markets for you, and why?
Each market has its own attractions and different market focus relevant to different sponsors, from North, Central and South America, to Australasia, Europe, South Africa and Southeast Asia. Asia is certainly on the rise both in terms of its growing importance in world trade and travel opportunities, and also the global ambition of cities, regions and countries in this part of the world to participate in and promote themselves on the world stage.

Our partnership successes in China for example have attracted other locations and we have just signed our third Chinese host city, Zhuhai in the Pearl River Delta, for three races over six years. This is also stimulating interest from other nearby countries.

How do you believe the host city bidding and hosting model will evolve in sport over the next few years?
It will continue to become more focused around tangible, measurable, return on investment – not just in economic terms, but in public engagement and impact, pride, brand awareness and value.

Sustainability, environmental and ethical credentials will become essential rather than just desirable. Business and development potential of the event’s sponsors and partners will bring relevant business opportunities, not only in core markets but also in emerging technologies, like ‘smart city’-related activities, to help create competitive advantages and improved quality of life.

There is a necessary trend to more bespoke partnership packages to help sponsors focus on their core objectives with creative projects connected to event hosting and participation. It would be interesting to see more destinations having clear criteria to enable a meaningful dialogue to create effective and relevant partnerships that have a high probability of success.

What will be the main challenges in the major event-hosting marketplace?
Growing competition and tighter budgets in a challenging economic market and environmental standards will all be major considerations.
There is a growing public voice and challenge to the very big events with political caution around adverse public perception and opinion.

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