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Part 2 -- Jordi Neves on the Volvo Ocean Race's digital strategy

Part 2 -- Jordi Neves on the Volvo Ocean Race's digital strategy

Part two our exclusive article about the role of Volvo Ocean Race chief digital officer, Jordi Neves.


One issue with the Volvo Ocean Race’s core sailing audience is its average age. On Facebook the average age of a race fan is 36. That of course begs the question how to appeal to the much sought after younger demographic? Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater Neves believes the key is to remain focused on your existing fans while explore new channels to draw in the youngsters.

To help with that Neves has been has been speaking to teen-players like Snapchat, among others.

“What we have found is that everyone you talk to is in a constant state of adaptation to what they perceive their users want. What you learn from that is that the consumers are the ones actually driving the way these platforms look and perform. In particular though, everyone wants to be able to stream live content and are looking at getting exclusive deals around that. 

“When I go to Snapchat and tell them that our average audience age is 36 they look at me very oddly. But it’s because they know very specifically what they want. They have a long term plan and right now they are targeting the 14 – 19-year-old age range.

For the core audience Neves is not planning to reinvent any wheels. Facebook will remain the race’s main social media channel along with Twitter for news and Instagram for images.

“Today at least our main audience is on Facebook. Why is that? It’s because it is a platform that is widely available worldwide and easy to use compared with others. But, while Facebook is our focus we will try to package our content in different ways to appeal to users on other platforms, like for example Snapchat. 

“That content will hopefully be built around some of the younger sailors within the race who are keen on broadcasting themselves and promoting their own brand along with us. I truly believe that is the only way we will attract the younger audience to watch us in the longer term. 

“What we definitely won’t do is try to push the same piece of content to all the platforms at the same time like we did last race. We learned the hard way how very time consuming and inefficient that approach is.”

Francisco Vignale/Team España

Sailing is not the only sport trying to achieve wider appeal and Neves says other organisations like the World Surf League have made good progress towards that goal. 

“They have done very well. They have been very smart and used their resources in extremely clever ways to really make an impact. 

“But we have to remember that our business model is very different to other sports. The Volvo Ocean Race is really a platform that allows (mostly) business-to-business sponsors to use the race as a way to create success for their brands. 

“Organisations these days are looking beyond raw numbers for tangible effects on their business. One of the challenges we face is how we measure return on investment and how we can demonstrate the value proposition of this beautifully complex sport and show how growing its audience will directly help increase sales for our owners and our commercial partners. We need to work hard on that B2B story and to find the right balance in our business model.” 

With two races under his belt and the start of his third less than a year away Neves is as motivated as he has ever felt in his role. 

“The prerace period is always very exciting because that is when the team is most fired up. We have built a team, we have a strategy, we know our target audience, which platforms we are going to go with and what our priorities are. 

“We are also trying to build a mechanism – we call it the learning circle - to listen to our audience every day in real time so we can find out what is working and what is not. Maybe we will find out that the audience wants more of something in particular or maybe has an appetite for something different. 

“Whatever it is we want to be able to gather that feedback and immediately put it back into the creative process of the content production. That way, hopefully, we will give the race fans more of what they want, more of the time.”

[Main image by Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race]

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