America's Cup: Run on red socks as fans get serious

By Steve Deane

Kiwis' enthusiasm for yachting and lucky charms ramps up as Team New Zealand move closer to victory

A crowd of 1,000 Emirates Team NZ fans celebrate their team's victory in race six at Shed 10 on the Auckland waterfront yesterday. Photo / Richard Robinson
A crowd of 1,000 Emirates Team NZ fans celebrate their team's victory in race six at Shed 10 on the Auckland waterfront yesterday. Photo / Richard Robinson

If the sales figures for red socks are any gauge of the nation's enthusiasm for the America's Cup, interest is picking up.

Kiwi yachting fans have now snapped up close to 19,000 pairs of the lucky charms favoured by the late Sir Peter Blake.

The socks have been flying out the door at Shed 10 on Auckland's waterfront, where yesterday a crowd of around 1000 gathered to watch Team New Zealand blitz Oracle Team USA to move to within three races of reclaiming the Cup.

"Red socks are going crazy," said Shelley Campbell, the chief executive of the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Not as crazy as they did in 1995, however, when Kiwis bought 100,000 pairs of the flashy footwarmers as part of a national fundraising drive.

The exact level of enthusiasm for the Cup is hard to measure. Cup stories on the Herald's website have consistently been among the highest read, while social media channels such as Twitter have been full of Cup chatter.

"Through the morning when the racing is on (social media) just goes completely nuts, which has been really great," Ms Campbell said.

Video

Electronic interest is one thing, but there still seems to be something missing. Sailing away is precisely what the Kiwis have been doing on the water, but in 1987 it was the anthem that swept the nation as the Chris Dickson-skippered KZ7 raced for glory in Fremantle.

Dave Dobbyn, Billy T. James, John Rowles, Suzanne Prentice and Precious McKenzie were among the personalities wheeled out for the video.

That kind of star power has been notably absent from this year's Cup. There's even been a curious lack of corporate exploitation - unless you count long-time sponsor Toyota's roll- out of four limited edition Cup-inspired SUVs and Nespresso's limited edition coffee maker.

"It does seem a bit low key, doesn't it," said Dr Mike Lee, a senior marketing lecturer at Auckland University.

With just three teams contesting a non-contest Louis Vuitton Cup that was preceded by years of bickering and court action, it's no real surprise the Cup got off to a slow start.

We Kiwis do love a winner, though.

"The feeling I get is that until we started having this winning streak you didn't hear much about it," Dr Lee said.

While Team NZ's cabal of key sponsors are all foreign companies, that wasn't necessarily a factor in the lack of overt marketing, Dr Lee said.

German sportswear giant adidas, for example, leverages its sponsorship of the All Blacks to the hilt. A more likely factor was that the sponsors mainly operated in high-end goods, making a mass marketing campaign unsuitable.

"The sport itself limits the way the sponsors may try to leverage their investment," Dr Lee said. "Yachting is obviously a very elitist sport."


Cup campaigns

1987 - Dave Dobbyn leads an all-star cast of Kiwi musos in a stirring rendition of Sailing Away.

1995 - Peter Blake reveals that red socks given to him by wife Pippa are his lucky charm. Kiwis snap up 100,000 pairs to help fund the campaign.

2013 - Nespresso launch a limited edition Team NZ coffee maker. Toyota New Zealand launch a limited edition range of SUVs, and present the team with replica dagger boards signed by supportive Kiwis.


Cup could lift NZ

• Potentially more than $500 million injected into the economy.

• $450 million was injected into Auckland during the 2003 defence, and 29,200 international visitors came.

• Five locations have been earmarked as a possible base. Halsey Wharf is one of the preferred options.

• The marine industry is aiming to attract 100 superyachts.

- NZ Herald

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