Acura Brings Sponsored Events To Fans Missing The Action

For the sailboat racing enthusiasts who couldn't get to the events, the Honda division is posting highlights of a special broadcast of the races on a number of racing and sailing Web sites and will rebroadcast it in its entirety later this month. It also will be the focus of a direct-mail and magazine campaign during May. It first aired on ESPN2 and features Gary Jobson, former All-American collegiate sailor, ESPN analyst and sailing tactician for Ted Turner.

Acura sponsored the Acura Key West Race Week in January and the Acura Miami Grand Prix last week.

The programs feature footage shot from helicopters and chase boats, interviews with defending champ Ernesto Bertarelli and others, Acura marketing and other material. They will be direct-mailed to sailing enthusiasts via a 10-minute DVD and will be sewn into the May America's Cup edition--the biggest of the year, in terms of readership--of Sailing World, which has 60,000 subscribers. The DVD contains a brand spot and an ad for the Acura RDX.

Greg Smith, senior vice president/account director at Acura's AOR, RPA, Los Angeles, says the brand's association makes sense because cruiser-class racing boats' deserved reputation as marvels of design and technology align with Acura's own "Advance" mantra and brand identity and because racing fans, while not a massive audience, are nonetheless fairly obsessed.

"It's very passionate, and that matches very much with Acura," he says, adding that the sport is getting more popular in the U.S. Sailing World and Cruising World are both devoted to racing.

"We really are trying to bring the sport to the fans." He says last year was the first that Acura hired Jobson to film the races. The company then bought air time for the two half-hour shows on Outdoor Life Network, targeting a lay audience. "This year, we changed that up--worked a little better arrangement with ESPN so the broadcasts are close to when the races occurred and then made the content much more technical and targeted to race enthusiasts."

This year, Acura also ran nightly, two- to-four-minute Web casts on ESPN.com, Acura.com, Premier-racing.com, and Jobsonsailing.com. Smith says the Jobson site received 110,000 unique visitors over four days. The company also broadcast the shows on ESPN2 two Sundays ago for the Key West Races. The broadcast of the Miami race will be on March 30, with two Acura spots running per broadcast.

Smith said Acura's presence goes beyond the ads within the shows, since the boats have bow stickers bearing the Acura name and logo and some have the Acura logo on their spinnakers, both visible in broadcast footage. At the races, Acura also had vehicle displays and product specialists.

"There's more than enough Acura involvement; we didn't want to hit anyone over the head with Acura, Acura, Acura," he says. The audience encompasses a wide range of ages. "It's an all-over-the-place demographic, from high school and collegiate sailors all the way up to designers and boat owners," he says, adding that it's a primarily male audience, 25 to 54. "Most definitely with a high household income but also a passion for something more."

An RPA release describes the target for this effort as: "More likely to be entrepreneurial, forward-thinkers who are early adopters of new technology, have discriminating tastes and actively cultivate knowledge. This new kind of prestige is based on the consumer's passion for being ahead of the curve--likewise among the world's leading competitive sailors and their legions of fans."