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Thu 28 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Finding the club

Club Perdomo made its name on the side of the racing yacht Switchblade. How did it all come about?

Club Perdomo made a name for itself on the side of the racing yacht Switchblade. But how did it all come about?

Sports sponsorship, across all sports disciplines, is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing branding strategies implemented by companies and sports personalities in today's advertising world. While often being accused of sticking to long held traditions in other areas, the world of sailing has embraced sponsorship for decades, with boats and competitions branded and re-branded with such names as Pimms, B&Q/Castorama, Cutty Sark, Mumm and Skandia.

As company owners and marketing departments became disenfranchised, disillusioned and disappointed with the results from using traditional forms of media, many have discovered the world of sailing offers a breath of fresh air and now proudly display their brand or company logo over hulls, banners, spinnakers and crew clothing.

And to see the results first hand, they need no more than attend the regatta where their brand, in full display on the main sail, hull and spinnaker, sails by under a full head of wind.

However, for the boat and its crew, taking on a sponsor is not a "free ticket" to the sailing season." The boat still has to perform, to put on a good show and to place highly as often as possible. While the majesty of a great company logo billowing across a giant spinnaker blows away traditional outdoor billboard advertising, at the end of the day, sponsors pay for performance.

Not only do they expect to see a return on their investment - if not in podium position - but also in publicity, on television, on the web, in magazines and by word of mouth. They want their brand well known in the target market and the demographic group their brand appeals to.

To the best of my knowledge, I believe the only racing boat in Dubai that has now kept a sponsor (that is not an owner) for more than two seasons running is the Beneteau First 36.7 Switchblade, owned by DOSC sailors Cameron Price and Will Ramage. When the white-hulled Beneteau first appeared at the Maktoum Sailing Cup last year, emblazoned in black and gold, her crew matching the palette in sleek shiny black tops under the heat of the February sun, they certainly made an impression.

And while the new Club Perdomo brand may not have initially attained the podium results it was looking for, it certainly attained the social spotlight dockside, because it was next to the Beneteau that the key players, local celebrities and well heeled always gathered. So, how does Switchblade continue to please their sponsor without standing on the top step each race?

Catching up with Cameron at his usual place behind Switchblade's wheel after a training sail, sundowner in hand, he revealed the simplicity of the campaign. "We are very lucky not to have a sponsor that is obsessed with podiums," sighed Cameron, "as it is getting increasingly competitive in the local fleet.

The competitive bar has certainly been raised in Dubai since we bought Switchblade. Back then the sleek design was the fastest on the water, but now the age of the design is beginning to show.

First place finishes were always attainable the first two years, but now we have to really fight hard for third. On race day it means we need to up our game and work even harder, as the closeness of the results is very telling. Now you can have just thirty seconds separating second and fifth position. Just one missed tack or slow sail change and you're out of the running!

The matching of the Beneteau with the Club Perdomo brand was a good fit from day one. The Club Perdomo brand is all about living life to its fullest and enjoying the best life has to offer.
That's what Club Perdomo does through its growing string of high-end, private aficionado destinations (private clubs) in Jakarta, Macau, Bangkok and soon in Dubai and other cites across Asia. It is a leading edge brand in the world of high-end, lifestyle products and services, initially offering premium cigars, gourmet coffee and private, member only clubs.

And the Beneteau is all about the leading edge, the winning edge and the zest for life, not to mention well travelled in the circles of the Middle East's elite. And so the partnership was born, appropriately brought together by good friends and good Margheritas. The Beneteau had its sights on a savvy sponsor, and Perdomo had its sights on a future aficionado lifestyle destination in Dubai.

Having raced consistently with the same pool of crew for the past four seasons, with Cam on helm and Will on the main, and always tapping an experienced team of seven DOSC regulars such as Pete, Russell, Mark, Simon, Sam, Marcel, DB, Pat and Danny, the Beneteau is working hard to maintain its position among the fleet leaders.

And not only is this consistent Switchblade crew one of the keys to the Club Perdomo on-the-water success, they also helped in the creation of the branding. "I see a lot of different branding in the international competitions I've competed in," states Cam, proudly.

"And the designs that work the best are those that sailors, the person actually using the boat, had a hand in creating. So, when faced with making a visually stunning makeover for Switchblade, we sat down and used the combined talents of our crew to come up with something unique and memorable.

We wanted something simple and striking, so we came up with the black and gold design on a vinyl transfer, applied by Imageworks, who did a fantastic job. It was a bit of an experiment for all involved, but we are all very happy with it, and the guys that applied it did an outstanding job, especially as the transfer is not a specific marine application.

That was the initial challenge. This year's challenge is to upgrade the competitiveness of the teams resources and, on the branding side, add another of the sponsor's brands, a gourmet coffee named Casa Caffé. Integrating the two, whether on a new boat or the Beneteau, was going to take something brilliant and clever, as it still had to carry the Versace-esque Club Perdomo logo on its black spinnaker and the same sleek crew shirts.

Cam could not be happier with the way the yacht is going. "You have to accept the reality of the competitive side of things," he explained." We love the competitiveness of the First 36.7 class racing, but to compete at a higher level and have a solid chance in taking the silverware, we have to change boats. And the good news is, if the sponsor maintains their current level of enthusiasm, then this could well translate into a new cutting edge designed yacht for the next racing season.

Choosing the right boat will be crucial, as going larger is not necessarily our aim - the bigger the boat, the bigger the horsepower, the larger the expenses, and the harder it is to ensure a regular and consistent crew. So basically we will be looking for a design catering for a seven-crew maximum.

Nice and simple. Not to mention the new design concept of the two logos perfectly incorporated together into one sleek look is an absolute stunner. The sponsor loves it.
I can practically hear the salivating of many boat owners looking for such an offer from a sponsor, but is Cameron's perspective upheld by Club Perdomo? I gave Hillman Lentz, the founder of Hathor Investment Group, the owner of both the Perdomo Asia and Casa Caffé brands, a call at their Bangkok regional office . "Yes, Cameron is right," he chuckled. "We are very happy with the sponsorship and are looking into the options regarding a new yacht. But that's all I can say on that point.

I then asked him to give the readers of this article some perspective on Club Perdomo, and why did you decide to take on yacht sponsorship? "Club Perdomo started off as a small investment in getting the rights to distribute a luxury cigar brand, Perdomo. And then it basically grew from there, as we turned it into a lifestyle concept - creating a dedicated lounge for lovers of fine indulgences, taking the product a step further.

Our first high-end club has opened in the new Ritz Carlton in Jakarta, and we are now looking at expanding to unique venues across Asia and the Middle East. But in line with our clientele, we are not being aggressive in our expansion; it is almost organic. Our products and clubs are tailored for the high net worth consumer, the person who respects the cost of a personal lifestyle of choice and relaxation.

So we have aligned ourselves with many luxury lifestyle activities, especially yachting, golf and cars. And this association has certainly paid off, as it has set our products away from the anti-smoking, diet-obsessed lobbies stretching everywhere. Dubai interests us as it has a similar demographic as Singapore - as in a high density of high net worth clients living in close proximity that deserve the good things in life."

It's obvious the two entities operate well together. Each harmoniously getting what they need from each other in the deal.

"We love the boat, and get on really well with the guys, and the little bit of press we got last year read really well. We are not overly concerned about placings - it is not just about the placing of a boat but the placing of the brand. And the design has to have that certain something, that special look, so that it gets noticed and stands out from the crowd. Cam and his crew totally deliver on that point.

"We took on the sponsorship to get people thinking about the name and the brand in advance of us setting up a club in Dubai, also to gauge interest. And it worked. We got a massive load of web hits after the Maktoum Sailing Trophy last year, so Cameron and his crew obviously generated interest, which is why we are staying with them.

The team are very upbeat about their future in Dubai's racing calendar and are more than happy with the strong relationship built with Club Perdomo.

"Undoubtedly, the Maktoum Sailing Trophy is the main highlight of the season. The Commodore's Cup is a fantastic way to crew up and get in the groove for the competition. This year we will also have some of the Club Perdomo guys over to see us racing in Dubai, so it is important we do them proud. Their sponsorship has enabled us to retain our competitiveness through creating a great sail plan, logos and all.

If all works well and we do upgrade to a new, more competitive yacht, we'd certainly like to keep this sail plan, it's our winning formula. www.clubperdomo.com.

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