Friday, August 14, 2009

Paint the America’s Cup with Henna in the Extraordinary Emirates

The stimulating article by Olivier Auroy in The National has got me thinking about Branding Fujairah and made me wonder how marketers will showcase the unknown town of Ras al Khaimah which has surprisingly been handed the task of hosting the America’s Cup in February 2010.

Safety Brand
With BMW Oracle tycoon Larry Ellison raising questions about RAK’s proximity to Iran, building an image that highlights the safety of the UAE is paramount. There’s no merit in beaming the message to American tourists: “When you come to the America’s Cup in RAK call in to Iran on the way.”

Battle Brand
The America’s Cup brand has been tarnished by the endless legal challenges and taunts between the owners and captains of the teams Alinghi and BMW Oracle. Should marketers ignore this factor in the branding or is it best to acknowledge it and bill the America’s Cup as a ding-dong battle on the water along UAE’s historically appropriate ‘Pirate’s Coast’?

Leveraging upon the UAE Brand
The short period between the announcement of the venue and the yacht race gives little time for the building of a new brand. It is important to get leverage from the existing brands that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE have collectively acquired.

Big Event Brand
The initial announcement by Alinghi billed the UAE as the rising showcase for international sporting events that have received the blessing of Tiger and Roger and whose star keeps on rising with the snaring of the F1 Grand Prix for Abu Dhabi. All this is happening in spite of the recession as the UAE is proving its ability to bounce back faster than other major world economies.

Innovative, Visionary, Defiant
The recent spending up large on American race horses by the Ruler of Dubai is just the act of defiance that people love to see in hard times.

Speaking of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum, his international recognition and influence is extremely high. Any support he can give to the advertising of the America’s Cup will give this event Mo Mentum and emphasize the ‘can do’ quality that people around the world admire.

Extraordinary Emirates
Capitalizing on the ‘extraordinary’ element in the Emirates seems the most effective way to get tourists and investors booking their fares for the UAE in February.

Plenty of scenes of the iconic Burj al Arab, statements about the growing list of world records in sport and architecture (‘Come visit the tallest building in the world' which opens in December 2009, laced with stories about base jumping off the Burj Tower and tower running) and of course oodles of pictures of the sensational shopping malls where family members who don’t like shopping can ski on snow, skate on ice or watch the sharks.

The extraordinary wealth of Abu Dhabi, oft dubbed as ‘the richest city in the world’, with its oil reserves and growing cultural richness through the Louvre of the Middle East, will give weight to the Emirates brand.

Celebrity Brand
Add to this the propensity for outrageously lavish fireworks displays and the constant jetting in of celebrities such as Kylie, Christina and the many like the Fed and the Shu and the Becks, who have made their home in the country will give the event extra pizzazz.

Henna the America’s Cup
The America’s Cup competition at RAK gives a wonderful opportunity to paint a positive picture of the Emirates with its Arab hospitality, traditional coffee drinking and cuisine, henna painting, shisha smoking, sensuous camel milk chocolates, as well as the more active pursuits such as riding camels in the desert, dune bashing, Arab horse riding, falcon flying, bush walking, sailing, diving and bull butting.

In February the weather is usually stable and pleasant (maximum 25C/77F) so this will lend itself to enjoying the great outdoors in the Emirates and in neighboring Gulf States.

Moderate Islam
There is no escaping the impact of Islam on all aspects of the UAE’s history, culture, sport and entertainment and nor would one want to ignore its important influence. Unfortunately some of the stricter aspects of Shariah law have received much greater prominence in the international press than is experienced on a day to day basis by residents of the Emirates. Images of the veils and burqas, the ‘sex on the beach’ trial, laws criminalizing homosexuals and banning Israelis, the dress codes, remembrances of stoning and flogging and laws that turn the bouncing of cheques and bankruptcy into criminal matters will be things the marketers will want to ignore.

The America’s Cup event presents a great opportunity to challenge narrow stereotypes, display the positive influence of moderate Islam and show how the vast majority of Muslims in the country are people who hate terrorism and are committed to peace.

Unique America’s Cup
Apart from the enduring aspects that the UAE offers, there will be much that is unique about the 33rd America’s Cup. History will be made as this is the first time the ancient competition is to be staged in the Middle East.

The race is shaping up as the ‘battle of the multi-hulls’ with Alinghi’s catamaran and the BMW trimaran. With these light, sail-rich crafts, the America’s Cup on the Persian Gulf could be the fastest competition in its history.

You Do the Branding
Marketers charge the earth for their brands and slogans. If you were given the job of branding the 33rd America’s Cup at RAK in the United Arab Emirates, what features would you underline and what marketing buttons would you press?

On Related Sites
Emiratis Like all Things Gold, Especially Australia’s Gold Coast, Experiencing the Emirates, 14 August 2009.

Branding Fujairah, UAE, Fujairah in Focus, 13 August 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

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Images: You Do the Branding.