James Pleasance - CEO, Alpari World Match Racing Tour Share PDF Print E-mail
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James has worked in the marine industry for over 20 years including roles with Oyster Marine and the Boat International Group. In 1999, he joined London based marketing agency the Strategic Group responsible for managing the sailing sponsorship portfolio for Rolex SA and global marketing for Nautor’s Swan.

He later joined sports marketing agency Octagon managing the World Match Racing Tour and clients including Swedish Match, Omega, Audi and BMW. James helped Swiss bank UBS to activate their sponsorship of Team Alinghi in the lead up to the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia. In 2008, he joined the Informa Yacht Group to manage the Superyacht Cup regattas. He also founded the World Yacht Racing Forum in 2008, the first conference for the business of yachting. James left Informa in September 2012 and was appointed CEO of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour.

By Steve Moorhouse

AlpariWMRT_LogoTell me a little bit about your past experience in sport and how you came to work in the sailing industry.

Although I have been a keen sailor since I was young, my career in sports marketing industry really started in the late 90’s when I joined London based agency the Strategic Group managing the marketing for Finnish boat builder Nautor Swan Yachts, and the global sponsorship portfolio for Swiss watchmaker Rolex. Prior to Strategic, I worked for superyacht magazine publisher Boat International, and as a yacht broker of British boatbuilder Oyster Marine.

In 2002, I was invited to join the sailing division of Octagon Sports Marketing to assist in managing the [then named] Swedish Match Tour, now known as the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. I also worked on other sponsorship projects including securing an Omega sponsorship for Dame Ellen Macarthur, and an Audi sponsorship for British no.1 female skier Chemmy Alcott.

I remained with the World Match Racing Tour before moving to Informa plc in 2008, the global conference and exhibition company. I started the World Yacht Racing Forum in late 2008 as the first ever conference for the business of the yacht racing industry. The Informa Yacht Group also owned the Monaco Yacht Show, Abu Dhbai Yacht Show, and Superyacht Cup Regattas.

Following a change in management at the World Match Racing Tour early last year, I was invited to re-join the company as CEO in September last year.

You have over 20 years’ experience working in marine and sports marketing, did you always plan to work in the sailing industry?

Actually no. I had originally planned to move into the advertising industry, but as I started to build contacts and grow relationships in the marine industry, it seemed natural to continue to develop that side of my career. Ironically, much of what I do today in running the AWMRT has a large element of advertising and marketing but with the added advantage of working in a sport which I am very passionate about.


Last year you became the chief executive of the AWMRT, after 10 years as a director. What was the most challenging aspect of swapping roles and what was the biggest challenge facing the tour at the time?

When I re-joined the AWMRT last year, I was fortunate to inherit a good team as well as many familiar faces. One of the challenges I faced was joining the Tour mid way through the season, and also during the first year of our new title sponsor Alpari. So it was important that I could hit the ground running, so to speak. It was also at a time when the planning for 2013 was underway finalising the event dates and schedules for 2013, and that often presents a challenge in itself ensuring that the event dates fit with other major events in the industry.

Do you think these challenges have been solved?

Fortunately yes, and after nearly a year in the role, I now have a very clear picture of our opportunities for the AWMRT moving forward. We have some exciting developments for 2014 which we will be announcing soon.

You have worked on both sides of the coin, the sponsorship side and the rights holder side. Does this make your job of gaining commercial deals easier, with the experience you have gained?

Finding sponsors is never easy and the process is more sophisticated these days with sponsors seeking a proven ROI from rights holders or events. But yes, having been fortunate to work with companies such as Alpari, Rolex and UBS for example, I have also been able to see how sponsors react to, and evaluate proposals, as well as see what they look for from rights holders. The experience is certainly helping help with our efforts to find new partners for the AWMRT.

Sailing is a fairly niche sport and can be confusing to outsiders. How hard is it for you to expand your global audience and gain extra broadcast deals?

Sailing has never been the easiest sport to either watch or televise, added to which it is a very fragmented sport with multiple disciplines which makes it impossible for there to be a ‘worlds best sailor’ for example.

The key to growing audiences in sailing is to make the sport easy to follow and exciting to watch either on site or on television. With the new technologies available in television such as adding 3D animations and the ability to broadcast live in HD for example, sailing is now more exciting to follow on television and we are certainly seeing an increase in our viewer numbers and broadcast deals this year which would suggest that we are moving in the right direction. The America’s Cup in particular this year has invested millions of dollars in their television technology including on screen graphics during live coverage, and this has really revolutionised the way we watch sailing on television.

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