Pre-digital age organisation structures miss the opportunity to sell sailing

by Chris Kameen on October 31, 2013

Over the weekend, Australia celebrated a National Discover Sailing Day, a joint venture between Yachting Australia (and it’s State Associations), the State Boating Industry Associations and some seed funding from the Australian Sports Commission. This has the makings of a great day and one in which we can really sell the virtues of the sport, if we all work together.

In this blog post I look at the challenges that sailing organisations face in trying to promote sailing and be relevant against a fast moving and increasingly digital audience and target market. Over the last few years I have argued that sailing organisations need to have a flatter structure and be more agile. This would allow them to operate in this digital age, unfortunately  we struggle with a committee dominated agenda that does not allow for a sport to build a personality that attracts young people.

Sailing on Facebook

You may have noticed that with Sydney Sailing School we have been really quite active in the facebook, linkedin and youtube spaces and have worked hard on developing a brand personality that is attractive to non-sailors. Up until now the on-line presence has all been my personality, but recent events have forced me to allow others to take my space and post things on my behalf.. This has been a tremendous leap of faith, but has been possible because ultimately I have made the call to trust somebody, and let our personality grow to encompass those of our instructors. This is an exciting time for the sailing school.

I would love to see our success replicated by YNSW and Yachting Australia but I can’t help but believe that the committee structure and lack of ‘ownership’ of the brand of sailing is a significant challenge. The increasing levels of management seem to compound the challenges.

This recent Discover Sailing Day highlighted to me the challenges faced. A lot of money appears to have been spent on marketing by the respective organisations on what I would consider rather ineffective old-school strategies. Scatter gun marketing using Newspaper adverts, TV commercials, posters and letterbox drops are considerably more expensive than targeted digital promotion, but can easily be agreed upon in a committee meeting. A fluid agile and dynamic marketing campaign that feeds off the stories of the day requires delegation of the personality of the sport that we want, to a select few – and these few are unlikely to align with the views of those on committees!

I’m not sure what the answer is with regards the digital presence of Yachting NSW and Yachting Australia/Discover Sailing, but I do know that the majority of attendees at our recent Discover Sailing Day came through digital promotion.  Four days after the event there is still nothing about the biggest sailing promotion day of the year on either websites or facebook pages….


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