AC34’s Impact on Sailing

October 17, 2013 § 5 Comments

Was AC34 a success? Larry said it changed everything. And the sailing media frenzy wouldn’t have been bigger had Miley twerked from Oracle’s aft rail.

But the early results are trickling in, and measured on its impact on public interest in our favorite activity, this America’s Cup barely registered.

If you were going to try to learn more about sailing after seeing an AC34 race, you’d google “sailing.” So to find out how many people did, let’s look at Google Trends based on the word “sailing”.

Google Trends: "sailing"

Google Trends: “sailing”

The persistent downward trend in sailing is widely known and many good folks are doing their best to reverse it. But wouldn’t you expect an uptick at the end of 2013 when the AC34 was happening, followed by new subsequent interest? Focus on the past 12 months:

Google Trends: "Sailing", 2013

Google Trends: “Sailing”, 2013

That blip (A) in September is the news of Oracle’s win.

Now compare the last three years. 2013 is down from 2012 and 2011. The spike (C) in 2012 was the Olympics.

Google Trends, "sailing", 2013, 2012, 2011

Google Trends, “sailing”, 2013, 2012, 2011

I draw three conclusions from these data:

1.) Youtube doesn’t inspire participation any more than cable TV or broadcast. A few people buy tennis rackets right after Wimbledon, but the long term trend in the sport is unaffected. Moreover, people who #gosailing turn off their screens to do it.

2.) Old sailors are the majority of AC watchers, and our numbers are tanking. The opportunity was to engage new sailors, and it didn’t happen.

3.) Organizers and sponsors never understood the Facebook generation’s sailing aspirations and they either missed or deliberately dissed the new demographic that is leading a #sailingrevolution today.

Or, perhaps, it was how it appeared: an entertainment event; a spectacle meant to make viewers, as opposed to a teaching moment designed to inspire sailors.

But hey, those boats were awesome! Gimme somuthat trickle down.

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§ 5 Responses to AC34’s Impact on Sailing

  • Larry Pruitt says:

    What I do know is that Team Oracle USA, America’s Cup, Team Emirates New Zealand were all posting on Facebook nearly daily. On a slightly less frequency, other posts were coming from Cruising World Magazine, SailTime and a few other sailing related organizations.

  • Seth says:

    Perhaps you should broaden your search:'s%20cup&date=today%2012-m%2C%201%2F2012%2012m%2C%201%2F2011%2012m&cmpt=date

    And once there, the need to type “sailing” into a search bar is minimal given the endless string of youtube videos, tweets, etc.

  • Tom Cavers says:

    Nick – how do you define “sailing”? Reason I ask is that it seems the sport is so segmented into subgroups — from kiteboarding to windsurfing to multihulls to cruising, etc. — that the word “sailing” may not capture the activity as consumers define it today.

    • ndhayes says:


      A great question, and one I’ve invested a lot of time in. (There is an entire chapter on it in my book.)

      Segmentation is a marketing word. For a buyer, it might mean choice. For a seller, it might mean differentiation.

      But in cultural and social terms, segmentation isn’t different from fragmentation, and fragmentation weakens the hand of the people in the culture.

      So we need one, encompassing word to represent what we love. Sailing is as good a word as any. If we rally around it, we might find that whether or not we want to kite board or buoy race, our sailing sisters and brothers have our back when it comes to water access, investments in schools and clubs, and important things like safety.

      It’s like a garage band, a wood carver and a poet. They’re all artists.


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