|Knut Frostad- CEO, Volvo Ocean Race|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 11 June 2012 11:57
Knut Frostad is the Chief Executive of the Volvo Ocean Race.
A former professional offshore sailor and Olympian, Knut competed in no fewer than four editions of the event, dating back to 1993-94 when he was a helmsman on second-placed Interim Justitia in what was then the Whitbread Round the World Race.
Four years later, he returned as skipper and project director on Innovation Kvaerner and he was back in 2001-02 in charge of Djuice Dragons. In 2005-06 he returned as watch leader and technical advisor with Brasil 1.
Twice winner of the prestigious Sydney-Hobart Race, in 1994 and 2000, Frostad took part in the Olympic trials for Seoul in 1988 as a board sailor and went on to represent Norway in the Flying Dutchman class in the Barcelona Games in 1992.
Born in Harstad, Norway, Frostad successfully translated his sailing achievement to the boardroom. He has a business background in management and has held a number of director and advisor positions within international companies.
A former journalist, he has written many yachting articles and a book ‘Responsible for the Irresponsible’ about his experiences in the Whitbread Round the World Race. He is also a recognised motivational speaker.
It's clearly a benefit to be able to understand the event from sailor's point of view, as well as from that of an event organiser. You need that ability. The sport is always about passion and you can never study passion at university. You have to have it in your blood. It helps with the connection with the teams and the sailors. They know that I know. It's very important.
What does sailing need to do as a sport to appeal to more people and become more mainstream?
I'm not so sure that sailing itself needs to be a mainstream sport. Our objective is to have a mainstream audience and you can do that even if not everyone is actually sailing. Sailing is many different sports and we don't have the same challenges as the Olympics or America's Cup sailing, for example. We have the story of this amazing challenge to get around the world at very high speeds. We're making big steps in communicating that story, but there's an ocean of opportunities out there. We need to get closer to the audience and get people closer to the guys on board. Every day there are stories that people can associate with. The content is amazing. A lot of sports today are sold on the quality of the images. The quality will only get better.
Is there a particular target group that you are looking to attract?
Although we are in many senses an adventure, we are presenting the race first and foremost as a sport and clearly at the moment we have a bigger male audience than female. The toughness of the race is more focused on male than female values, I would say right now, though we do have a bigger female audience on Facebook and that's somewhere we're looking to grow.
How do you educate a new audience, without alienating the more traditional audience?
It's not about alienating people, in my experience. This is a generation that's changing. You have to speak a different language to people who don't remember this event from the 1970s and 80s. They get attracted to the event for other reasons. They will never get attracted to the past. The content drives a lot of people. It is true, though, that communication is very different in China than in the UK. A lot of it is about educating people and we can do better at that.
With recruitment in mind, how do you get more kids sailing and prevent losing a generation of sailors after the teenage years?
We are doing something on a small scale with our Academy in each of the 10 host ports, building a connection between the kids just starting to sail today and the stars of the Volvo Ocean Race, to show that there is a path you can follow. We also have the sailing school and we get around 10,000 children through that school. If 1 percent start sailing, that's very good news. The biggest challenge for sailing is to connect the stars with those teenagers who are considering what to do. Other sport do this far better. Take football, for example, where the stars of the sport are very visible.