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New sponsorship ensures buoyant future for Cowes Week


Fireworks over Cowes were more than the traditional Friday celebration as the south’s largest annual regatta drew not just to a close but a beginning of long-term stability at a time of economic uncertainty for many sports.

Aberdeen Asset Management has extended its sponsorship and signed up for an extra two years taking the original three-year deal an extra two years through to and including 2015.

AAM ceo Martin Gilbert acknowledges the groundwork put in by previous sponsor Skandia, yet another financial services group, which had turned Cowes Week into “a must go event for fund managers and independent financial advisers.”

He enjoys sailing himself and has a sailing boat in the Mediterranean – “I am a warm water sailor now” - but emphasises two central tenets in that this is very much a UK-centric initiative and that this is a family event, including the AAM family.

Gilbert has some of the granite city’s qualities in his bones, but he is proud that part of the deal sees seven boats racing each day with many guests who have no sailing experience.

There are professionals onboard to run everything but it has proved an attractive hospitality invitation, not just for financial advisers but many of AAM’s employees.

Of the 1,100 people shipped across the Solent by AAM during the week, 400 were their own staff and families.

He also explains why so many financial houses are targeting the sailing community. In addition to Skandia and AAM, Brewin Dolphin, Artemis, and J P Morgan, who will now back Ben Ainslie Racing as it starts its America’s Cup journey, all recognise its market potential. Some of the ferries from Southampton carried an ambush marketing message from M&G.

Gilbert points out that investments can offer better returns when the banks offer paltry interest rates. And, in a cute piece of lateral thinking, Harlequin Rugby Club sent a marketing trailer to sell not just kit but access to season ticket and corporate hospitality packages in the main marina.

Next year the regatta moves back to the late-July, early August slot that was the Olympic Games this year and, being an odd year, will attract more foreign and big boats for the Fastnet Race at the end of the week.

There has been a more family, club-racer feel to the fleet this week, a not altogether bad thing and not unexpected given the way regatta entries have been going all over Europe and the United States.

One of Gilbert’s mantras has been to buy into something good and then hang on to it. The investment formula that he applies to the stock market has also been applied, it would appear, to his sponsorship and marketing pick.