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IMOCA Ocean Masters partners have heart

Sailing brings humanistic values to the heart of businesses

© François Van Malleghem
© François Van Malleghem
  • Patrons make an effort to promote values, not brands
  • Human values first and foremost
  • The skipper: always the cement of partnership

Four new partnerships were recently made official on the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship circuit : Eric Bellion’s « Comme 1 Seul Homme », Fabrice Amédéo’s « Newrest* - Matmut », Arnaud Boissières’ « Le Bateau des Métiers by AéroCampus Aquitaine », and Thomas Ruyant’s « Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine ». Patronage and humanism are at the heart of these new projects.

Together, these programs will also make the most of the international media coverage of the Vendée Globe and the unifying power of offshore racing.

Sailing is a powerful medium for the transmission of human values. While always at the heart of sailing partnerships, those values are rarely brought to the forefront, with partners most often giving greater importance to the promotion of their business.

A new trend: a wind of humanism sweeps over IMOCA

Two of these new IMOCA projects are now going against this classic scenario: 13 patrons are supporting Eric Bellion’s « Comme 1 seul homme » program and more than 50 others are backing Thomas Ruyant’s « Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine».

Those businesses – which range from home offices to large-scale international groups – have chosen to get involved in these IMOCA Ocean Masters programs to promote a message and values rather than to perform a commercial operation.

None of these companies will get visibility on the boats or elsewhere in the races. The added value of their sponsorship is to be found elsewhere.

For the 13 patrons of « Comme 1 Seul Homme », it is a true internal communication exercise on the issue of diversity in business. The message being promoted – « diversity is a strength » - hits home with managers and employees alike.

The world inhabited by the IMOCA skippers, with its round-the-world single-handed racing allowing no stops or assistance, represents an extraordinarily powerful and unifying medium that is perfectly in sync with the larger issue of human coexistence and performance.

Renaud Benquet, CEO of Trepia, patron of Comme 1 Seul Homme : « Within the context of the IMOCA Ocean Masters circuit we will be present wherever we can, but to champion a message, not to brandish our logo. Together with Eric, we are now acting to defend diversity in business. We are not simple “backers”. We are standing up for an idea that we try to implement in everyday life, with the Vendée Globe event as background…»

Human values forever

The co-partnership between Newrest and Matmut to back Fabrice Amédéo is more standard, but its main inspiration remains the human factor. The journalist/skipper’s partners have perfectly sized up the impact of a Vendée Globe venture and want to rely first and foremost on the values associated with offshore racing and their skipper.

Matthieu Jeandel, Vice-President, Newsrest Finances and Administration: « The Vendée Globe was the primary motivation behind our support of Fabrice Amédéo. It is one of the last human and competitive ventures remaining, and carries values of commitment and surpassing one’s limits that we share wholeheartedly. It is also extremely high standard, and this idea of excellence is what we strive for daily. »

Jean-Michel Levacher, Directeur of Communication for Matmut : « This is not a publicity stunt for us. We want to develop this partnership around the human factor, effort, courage, persistence, and sharing, which are all mutualistic values. »

Such an approach will not prevent both co-partners from making the most of the international media coverage of the Vendée Globe event to exert their influence.

Jean-Michel Levacher : « As pleasure sailing insurers we are deliberate positioning ourselves to target all amateur sailors. »

Matthieu Jeandel : « Our second motivation is the media coverage of the event, which allows you to reach a very wide audience ranging from housewives to economic and political decision-makers, and not only in France. »

Internal communication will follow suit, with Newsrest for its part planning to couple its support of the Vendée Globe with the company’s 10th anniversary – a nice way to create a connection between all its employees on all 5 continents… which Fabrice will reach in turn during his circumnavigation.

Last but not least

Finally, as always in sailing, the skipper is the cement, the core element, the binder necessary for things to gel between offshore racing and businesses. The adventurer/communicator personality of Fabrice Amédéo as well as Eric Bellion’s trajectory and charisma both influenced the establishing of those respective partnerships.

In our sometimes divided society in which competition is everywhere, offshore racing – and particularly IMOCA with its legendary Vendée Globe – seem more and more like a legitimate medium to (re)place human values at the heart of the debate.

The future will tell whether this is just an oasis or a humanity deposit to be fostered. Be that as it may, the IMOCA Class, mainly through these new partnerships, now represents a source of values that businesses are thirsting for. 

More than 50 patrons (businesses, municipalities, schools, associations…) are working together with Thomas Ruyant on the « Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine». They chose to get involved in this IMOCA Ocean Masters program to promote values and a message.

North wind: a breath of human warmth

Thomas Ruyant’s program is the standard-bearer of a charity, but not exclusively. It is a three-way partnership between the sportive component with its eye on the Vendée Globe, the humanistic values of the « Projet Imagine » association (a philanthropic medium), and the northern identity of the « Souffle du Nord* » uniting the whole thing.

The first 50 patron organizations to back Thomas Ruyant occasionally adhere to one of those « causes » more than the other two, but all give greater importance to the message being delivered than to the promotion of their brand.

Valéry Dalle, CEO of Cousin Tretsec, patron of Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine: « What captivated us is the humanistic aspect of this elite sports program, the extra touch of soul provided by the ‘‘Projet Imagine’’. We are not positioning ourselves as a sponsor, but as supporters of Frédérique Bedos’s association. »

Benjamin Derreumaux, Le Gallodrome **, patron of Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine: « Le Gallodrome is championing the exact same values as the Souffle du Nord project: for the last 10 years we have been working to unitenortherners and defend the spirit and values of our region. So it was unthinkable for us not to be involved in this adventure! »

Amandine Montac, Marketing Director for France, Norauto,patron of Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine :« What appealed to us were the combined sportive and humanitarian values. Humility, sharing, goodwill, authenticity: we totally adhere to those values and to patronage, for internal communication purposes, because our fellow workers are everyday heroes! »

More collaboration, but for the nautical industry in Aquitaine

Another original and collaborative approach is that of the multi-parnership set up by Arnaud Boissières, which federates close to twenty partners (businesses) and the AéroCampus Aquitaine.

For those SMEs, such a multi-partnership (association, collaboration…) is a rare opportunity to get involved in the famous and widely-publicized Vendée Globe event. For each of them the impact will be significant, despite the scant visibility.

Jean-Jacques Béteau, CEO of Fantronic, historic partner of Arnaud Boissières : « This multi-partnership gives our SME access to the Vendée Globe, allowing us to show that we are a dynamic companyable to offer our clients – with structures sometimes much larger than ours – some offbeat and large-scale enterprises.

We are not looking for the visibility of a news broadcast, that’s not our target. The interest for us is in being able to consolidate ties with our clients, our suppliers, and even our financial partners in a memorable way, in particular by going sailing with Arnaud on the IMOCA. »

But this collaborative partnership goes even further since it is backed by the AéroCampus Aquitaine, a training centre composed of 18 bodies and dedicated to aeronautical maintenance occupations. Their objective in supporting Arnaud Boissières’ Vendée Globe program is twofold: to establish gateways to the nautical industry and take the first step towards the creation of a 100% Aquitaine-based offshore racing hub.

Jérôme Verschave, Director of AéroCampus Aquitaine : « We want to diversify our activities to include nauticaloccupations. Our partnership with Arnaud aims to showcase our know-how, since aeronautics and naval have much in common. We were thus actively involved in the technical preparation of Arnaud’s IMOCA 60’.

The way we will make this happen is by turning this IMOCA into the « Bateau des Métiers » (Occupations Boat): after the Transat Jacques Vabre, it will be “boned” and exhibited at the Bordeaux harbour, as a life-size display of our expertise. The idea comes from aeronautics and their « Avion des Métiers » being shown at the Salon du Bourget. Eventually, we would like to showcase the Bateau des Métiers at the Nautic… Because this is meant to be a long-lasting partnership related to a strategy of reorganizing the nautical industry in Aquitaine and creating an offshore racing hub here. »

It all started with an encounter

Finally, it is important to remember that what sparked these partnerships was a simple encounter. Arnaud Boissières’ engaging and disarming sense of humour as well as Thomas Ruyant’s talent and entirely « ch’Nord » identity played a (literally) fundamental role in bringing these IMOCA ventures to life! 


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