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United we stand: The Superyacht Life Foundation

Business
Written by
Gemma Fottles

With the first seeds planted back in 2013 as part of the Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss), the Superyacht Life Foundation officially made its debut as an independent organisation at the latest edition of the Monaco Yacht Show. The idea is simple: unite the industry - whether they be shipbuilders, designers, suppliers, brokerage companies or anything in between - to come together and collaborate on a targeted, unified marketing campaign to open up the wonders of superyachting to a wider audience. If successful, the entire industry will reap the rewards. SYL foundation - Upper deck picture
The concept itself certainly deserves applause. As discourse circulating the yachting world has shown time and time again, the number of individuals in the world with enough financial security to invest into making their boating dreams a reality is on the rise, but the number of yachts in the order book is not reflecting this increase. The reason behind this, so say The Superyacht Life Foundation, is rooted in the very perception of yachting itself. This was demonstrated most clearly within the opening presentation from the organisation in Monaco: a slide depicting a promotional image of the popular Grand Theft Auto video games, in which a decidedly shady figure, adorned with heavy gold jewellery and surrounded by scantily clad women, stands on board his superyacht, fat cigar in hand, aggressively staring down at the viewer. 

This, the non-profit Foundation asserts, is the prevalent view of the superyacht life to the outside world. Hedonism, debauchery and questionable financial resources, all allowing those that dabble in unsavoury business to live out their wildest fantasies on the ultimate extravagance - a superyacht. And, as far as the organisation is concerned, this is exactly what needs to be countered if we are to attract new clients to the business. If yachting is presented as it is, they say, a wholesome, family-orientated pastime, the epitome of the perfect, private vacation to spend true quality time with loved ones, the minds of those that currently consider yachting as ‘not-for-me’, will be changed and the barriers to their entry to yachting lifted, thus improving the external perceptions of the industry and increasing the likelihood of future clients becoming involved. 

SuperYacht Life Foundation- The board
It is certainly logical for the superyacht industry to come together as one consolidated tour de force to change this, yes, but how does The Superyacht Life Foundation plan to execute this in practice? The first step was to create a board of revered members: Carlos Vidueira, Managing Director at Rybovich Marina as Board President, Charlie McCurdy, CEO at Informa Exhibitions, Lucia Bellini, Head of Marketing and Communications at Benetti, Michael Breman, Director of Sales at Lürssen Yachts, Farouk Nefzi, Marketing and Brand Director at Feadship, and Theo Hooning as Secretary General. An impressive team of key industry representatives willing to put their time into the scheme, and notable is the fact that the competitor element has been all but removed, allowing shipyards like Benetti, Feadship and Lürssen to work together to the advantage of the entire industry. 

The function of the board,” Theo Hooning explains, “is to collectively decide the strategy and directions of the organisation, which the Superyacht Life team of professionals executes. Regarding the roles and responsibilities, it is a collaborative effort to which everyone from their own specialism contributes. It’s extremely interesting to have professionals with such different backgrounds in the board, who all trust that growing the market through The Superyacht Life Foundation is the best way to achieve their companies and the rest of the industry’s long-term business objectives.”

So far, the board’s collaborative efforts have started with a focus on digital content marketing through the Superyacht Life’s dedicated platforms: a well-designed, user friendly website filled with inspirational stories of the yachting life from owners and charter clients as well as practical information for anyone interested in chartering or purchasing a yacht and a regularly updated Instagram account with several thousand followers. Of course, the Foundation is still in its relatively early days so, as the board ensured its audience in Monaco, there will be a lot more to come. As an initiative which was started by key industry players, for the benefit of the superyacht industry, Superyacht Life emphasises the importance of gathering the entire industry’s support in order to ensure its future success. 

The Superyacht Life Foundation- Instagram feed
The Superyacht Life Foundation's Instagram feed

Of course, with only partial pre-financing behind the scheme from the board members, it may appear on first impressions that the Foundation requires almost blind support and substantial financial backing from the industry in order to get its feet off the ground, but this is not the case. Industry support, Superyacht Life is keen to emphasise, can come in a variety of forms: from content creation to promotion across social media channels, to - small or large - financial donations. The commitment from industry members does not need to be particularly overwhelming in order to boost the campaign. For the campaign to be successful, a true spirit of collaboration and teamwork is needed, and a little help can go a long way.

Indeed, even now, in the Foundation’s early days, Benetti’s Lucia Bellini explains that this team spirit is already in evidence. “The amount of interest and positive feedback we are already receiving following our introduction in Monaco already demonstrates trust in the programme,” Bellini states. “The Foundation is run by professionals working with a pool of talented freelancers to ensure the programme is a success. What will also greatly contribute to the success of the programme, is that by being an industry effort we can benefit from the finest minds and creative professionals in the industry, and leverage existing networks.”

The takeaway message from our conversation with Superyacht Life is this: talking about the lack of UHNWI individuals entering the superyacht industry is not enough, but taking action through a clear and unified marketing strategy - such as that represented by Superyacht Life - is vital for boosting the industry’s future. 

What’s the next step for the Superyacht Life Foundation?

Farouk Nefzi: Determining the foundation’s focus and developing the business plan has been an intensive process. Many meetings took place prior to the launch in Monaco on 26 September and many more will follow to continue to develop the programme, including our future events strategy, initiate partnerships with lifestyle brands and monitor the programme’s impact. This is an ongoing project, that will develop over time. The most important next step is getting the industry behind this initiative to make it viable. 

You very much focus on yachting as an entirely wholesome family activity. What about the potential owners who want to explore or, indeed, indulge? 

Carlos Vidueira: Superyacht Life has no intention to dictate to an owner how to utilise their yacht. Typically, people who throw great parties or seek thrilling adventures do not need the encouragement of a media campaign to do so. As a result, although we welcome all owners, we are actively targeting potential new owners with a more wholesome message. 

Our aim is to educate and inspire individuals about new possibilities. In the past, when non-yachting media has written about yachting, it has mostly been an inaccurate picture. Superyacht Life hopes to correct that by providing accurate information and content to the media.

Current happy owners are the best business cards for yachting. Will you involve owners in the campaign?

Charlie McCurdy: Yes, current owners are indeed the best ambassadors. We believe that the work of Superyacht Life will equally benefit existing yacht owners as yachting will receive media coverage that is more accurate and positive. In fact, the current, often inaccurate images out there likely contribute to why many owners are so private about their yachting experiences. There are so many inspiring owner stories waiting to be shared - from exploring Antarctica and helping with polar research, to sailing around the world using only wind energy. 

What exactly are the costs to members?

Michael Breman: We are currently fine-tuning the details of how companies and individuals can get involved. But I would like to add that contributions may not always be financial, other resources such as content, input for strategy or contacts are also welcomed. Considering the large pool of potential partners, we envision that by sharing the costs we can make individual investments go far. The six board members have financially contributed to starting up the new foundation and programme. Since the Monaco Yacht Show launch, we have officially opened to industry partners and are happy to report a huge amount of interest.  

What is the campaign strategy?

Carlos Vidueira: The editorial content strategy that has been launched aims to create a positive and more realistic image of yachting in non-yachting media, targeted at a general audience as well as UHNWIs and their influencers. Our future events programme will engage potential owners by providing experiences on and around superyachts in collaboration with exclusive non-yachting events that already attract the target audience. Collaborations with luxury lifestyle partners such as fashion, aviation and car brands will provide a broader lifestyle experience at such events.

SYL Logo
Are you interested in supporting the Superyacht Life Foundation, or want to hear more information? Head to their site, or contact the Superyacht Life team via info@thesuperyachtlife.com or +31 20 290 00 62.

Photos by Jeff Brown | Breed Media