Sport: Yacht race sails into the mainstream

Velux 5 Oceans hired Hill+Knowlton Strategies to promote its nine month around-the-world race.

Sport: Yacht race sails into the mainstream
Sport: Yacht race sails into the mainstream

Campaign: Velux 5 Oceans Round the World Yacht Race
Client: Velux 5 Oceans
PR team: Hill + Knowlton Strategies
Timescale: June 2010-August 2011


  • To take the story beyond the traditional realms of the sports and sailing press
  • To deliver high value media content across as many platforms as possible
  • To reach a broader audience.


Since the Velux 5 Oceans race began in 1982, the event has attracted much interest within the specialist sports and sailing press. For this year's race - the second with Velux as title sponsor - the organisers asked H+K to generate interest across lifestyle/modern mainstream targets, to reach a broader, new audience.

H+K designed a multi-market network approach for the event, providing the travelling comms team with proactive press office support in the UK, US, France, Poland, New Zealand and Canada, centrally co-ordinated from London. This enabled the comms team to share ideas and knowledge and pass information across territories.

In the UK, H+K secured and set up a race-long blog with The Independent Online, involving British skipper Chris Stanmore-Major. Key journalists were invited to attend stopovers in Cape Town and La Rochelle.

Stanmore-Major also conducted regular telephone interviews from the ocean. H+K also identified interview opportunities with race ambassador and British sailing stalwart Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to further generate interest among mainstream lifestyle/consumer targets.

The same strategy was also executed in Poland, US, New Zealand, France and Canada, tailored to each territory - telling either the story of their home skippers, or relating to specific cities in which the race stopped. H+K negotiated inclusion of Velux 5 Oceans branded imagery and mentions throughout all coverage, and where possible, seeded strategic Velux messaging and calls to action, to promote an online following and social networking.


Highlights of press coverage included full-page features in the London Evening Standard and The Independent, plus content on The Sun and FHM online.

There were several profile interviews with Knox-Johnston, featuring in Sport Magazine, The Mail on Sunday, The Telegraph Magazine, Observer Magazine and The Independent Magazine. Coverage was international and encompassed a wide range of media.


During the race the stopover ports of La Rochelle, Wellington and Auckland were the highest profile, with 50,000 people visiting in La Rochelle, 25,000 in Wellington and 30,000 in Charleston.

Proactive media relations drove significant traffic to the website, which received 2,825,846 visits throughout the race. The online Velux 5 Oceans game was played by 90,000 people.



It is difficult to get the general press to publish major sports stories besides the usual football and tennis competitions. That's especially true for sailing, which has long suffered from a reputation of being elitist.

H+K has challenged the status quo by putting forward national heroes who could tell personal stories for each target country, share experiences and ultimately capture the imagination of a wide audience.

At the execution level, the campaign is a good example of best practice in that it was run locally but co-ordinated from a central hub, giving an opportunity to share learnings from the initiatives that were launched in different countries.

The online race-tracking application is a great example of a social media engagement tool that definitely contributed to the overall success of the campaign.

However, the social media side of the campaign has some potential for further improvements, for instance live chats and interviews with the skipper, which could be introduced should the campaign start again next year.

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