OC Sport’s push in Asia continues with Chinese focus
25 March, 2015
As the OC Sport managed Dongfeng Race Team, the only Chinese entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, continues to exceed all expectations, so OC Sport continues to forge even stronger links in China. Currently on the Volvo Ocean Race project OC Sport is partnering with the Chinese cities of Shiyan and Sanya, as well as Chinese brands of Aeolus Tyres and Dongfeng Trucks. A new three year deal has been signed with Qingdao as Host Venue Partner to the Extreme Sailing Series, as the company boosts internal resources to reflect the company’s growing activities in Asia.
2015 is the fifth year that the Chinese Act of the Extreme Sailing Series will take place in Qingdao, and the Qingdao Government and the Qingdao Yachting Association recently confirmed a three year extension of their Host Venue partnership through to 2018.
The original stadium racing circuit, now in its ninth year, first made an appearance in Asia in 2009 in Singapore. Singapore has now become a permanent fixture on the Extreme Sailing Series global tour and two years ago OC Sport opened an office in Singapore to facilitate the company’s growing activities in Asia. “We now have a 12-strong Chinese team working full time at OC Sport across the Dongfeng Race Team and Extreme Sailing Series activities,” said Rémi Duchemin, CEO OC Sport. “Asia has become an important part of OC Sport and it is unlikely the company’s activities will stop with sailing, as other brands in the company’s portfolio, like the Haute Route™ Cycling Series, have the potential for growth in this territory.”
The Dongfeng Race Team campaign has taken OC Sport to another level both from a sporting perspective and from a commercial point of view. Helping the team’s Chinese sponsors achieve their own global ambitions is challenging. State owned enterprise Dongfeng Trucks, Aeolus Tyres and the City of Shiyan have had to get to grips with a rights programme and activation strategy that in many ways is made more complicated by the very nature of a non-mainstream, water-based, weather-dependent sport!
But perhaps what has been more challenging, apart from trying to find Chinese sailors capable of taking on the Volvo Ocean Race, is trying to pierce the Chinese public’s awareness of offshore ocean racing. Chinese like to win and there are plenty of sports where they have enjoyed enormous success, particularly in the Olympics for example. Anyone familiar with sailing knows that there is no shame in coming second and it is a major sporting achievement just to finish a Volvo Ocean Race leg in one piece. But that has been a hard message to get across. Bruno Dubois, Dongfeng Race Team Director, explained further: “The top-level management at Dongfeng Trucks and the people we work with have grasped this. They have understood it after a year – they now realise that it is quite hard to win. But the majority of the public still do not know – again it is the first time they have encountered sailing of any kind and for them there is no difference between car racing, badminton and sailing. That is another big challenge for us – it’s not just about introducing the Volvo Ocean Race to China, it is also about introducing a new mentality and a new sport in general…”
Winning was never an objective when OC Sport took on the management of the Dongfeng Race Team campaign in October 2013 – the long term ambition is to ensure a full Chinese entry in future editions of the Volvo Ocean Race. However, with Dongfeng Race Team finishing on the podium of every leg so far the team are currently lying in joint first place. What’s key is managing our partner’s expectations, as we know only too well in the sport of offshore racing nothing is certain until you cross the finish line.