IMEM graduation report: Mediated Sailing Experience

Mediated Sailing Experience

Using Audience needs as building stones to improve sailing viewing experiences

Authors: Daniel Lawler, Miruna Doicaru, Marnix van Gisbergen


Consumption of sports through media has increased and expanded tremendously.. Viewers can choose what, when and how to look while choosing from a wide variety of media (from smartphones to virtual reality), media consumption forms (from second and multiple screen options to extended viewing) and in different contexts (at home, in the train or in a bar or virtually between the live audience). This live sport mediated experience seems to have benefits but also thresholds compared to attending a live event. Visiting a live sport event for instance provides communal atmosphere and presence among fans on the one hand (Levy, 2011), but also tresholds like less control (e.g., lack of replay or limited visibility) or comfort such as plastic seats, or transportation issues on the other hand (Galily, 2014). Connecting both using new technologies might provide benefits for both. Especially for sports that deal with challenges as diminishing audiences or challenges in live viewing and coverage of the sport event. One of these sports concerns sailing. Sailing is “in a period of transition…and needs to be more promoted as the exciting sport that it is” (Henderson, 2012, p. 123). Unlike football, or athletics, there are less viewers that are willingly to engage with the competitions in a mediated form, lacking popularity of sailing as a sport. Statistic from the Olympic Program Commission (2005), ranked Sailing as 24th out of 28 different sporting competitions, based on the popularity that is measured as the amount of online page views generated on the Olympic website. In addition, in a popularity rating sailing was placed as number 31st out of 34 different sports. This rating was based on three aspects: “the overall importance of each sport to the Olympics, its uniqueness to the Olympics and its entertainment value” (Yoder, 2016). The decline in sailing reach and engagement for a broad audience has several reasons that range from a narrow image, meaning an upper-class sport sponsored by expensive products, instead of a popular sport for the public (Sponsoring and Advertising, n.d.), up till challenges in how to ….. “Sailing has to be trendy, in order to attract both youth and adults in the future” (The International Sailing Federation, 2013, p. 7). However, it is unclear how this needs to be done. Although we do have the technology, we often lack the knowledge, experience, content or strategy how to use it. It is for instance unclear what kind of mediated content (potential) sailing audiences want to experience during a live sailing event.


Research goal: reveal the needs concerning the motivation (themes) to view a mediated sailing experience, in order to use these needs as building stones to create new (technology driven) concepts to enhance the sailing viewing experience.

Research questions: (1) What are the different types of mediated sailing watchers?, (2) Which motivations / themes relate to (3) which type of sailing audiences, (4) How can these needs be used to improve reach and engagement with sailing (concepts)?


Method: interviews (average of 50 minutes, at home or via skype)

Who:  12 participants that watch (at least once a year) live sailing, aged between 19-56, national and international (Germany, Australia, England and Laos) and of which nine are qualified or experienced sailors up till (sailing instructors / former Olympic sailors).

Measures: (1) personal experience, (2) motivations to watch, (3) priority of motivations, (4) enjoyment of watching, (5) missing when watching.

When: May 2018


(1) Four types of sailing audiences: (1) Ambitious Mediated Sailing Watchers, (2) Activity Driven Mediated Sailing Watchers, (3) Humble Mediated Sailing Watchers and (4) Social Mediated Sailing Watchers

(2) Reasons to watch (sail) sport events (Statista, 2015, Wenner, 1989; Henderson, 2012): (a) witness remarkable skills and athleticism (aesthetics), (b) feeling the tension of competition and rivalry (drama) between opposing teams (desire to “thrill in victory”), (c) observing team strategies and capabilities and learning about the sport and game, (d) excitement induced by the speed of play of the game and entertainment during the event (shows advertising), (e) displaying pride for the support of their team, (f) socializing with athletes, friends and enjoying camaraderie (group affiliation) with others (peers and new people) and escape (get rid of daily problems and anger), and (g) watching as part of a tradition (family or national tradition). In addition research (Loibner, 2016) showed that (h) innovations within sailing can increase reasons to watch. Examples are developments that help to make the sport more understandable and close (e.g., distinguish boats and athletes by means of large country flags on the sails of boats or hosting medal races closer to the shore).

(2b) Reasons why media enrich live events (Lang & Lang, 1952; Wenner & Billings, 2017): media adds (a) drama and thrill due to unique perspective (point of view for instance using onboard camera’s, wider field of view and possibility of close-ups), (b) storytelling and framing (reporter and/ or contextual information), (c) extends and connects more audiences and fans (international scale opening venues not possible to visit), technological innovations that provide reveals (d) new ‘invisible’ information and allow for (e) a more honest and fair gameplay (e.g., infrared imaging referee systems such as goal-line technology).

(2c) The most important needs to be interested to view mediated sailing events are: (a) achievement, (b) exhibition, (c) abasement, (d) deference, (e) inviolacy, (5) play and (6) cognizance.

(3) Most important motivation per audience segment: Ambitious (• Admiration, • Interest based on Curiosity, • Personal Development), Activity Driven (• Thrill of Action, • Thrill of Danger, • Teamwork), Humble (• National Pride/ Individual Admiration, • Dignity for Sailing), Social (• Social Aspect)

(3b) Ambitious: Admiration and attaining tactical information (Interest based on curiosity), for achieving a personal growth and development admiration based on astonishment and aspiration. Non-sailers based on skills, sailors based on strategy.

“I’m intrigued and astonished and I’m blown away by the skills and capabilities of these particular sailors”

“I really looking up to it, I really like the. I would be really happy to be a minute in their shoes. I really want to be on that boat”

“For example, tricks they use at the start, how they choose their best approach for that. It is interesting to see how a professional does it”

(3c) Activity driven: attracted based on the thrill of action (speed of play, the agility of the sailors and the energy within the game), and danger as well as teamwork

“The boats go faster and are much lighter and have a much bigger sail surface than they used to, there is that thrill of speed there”

“The boats go faster and are much lighter and have a much bigger sail surface than they used to, there is that thrill of speed there

I like the high altitude, the big waves, the power of the sea, ….I do like when they don’t die, but they had the chance of dying”

“Seeing the teamwork …how they work together…how they keep the boat straight…like one big coordinated team”

(3d) Humble: have a modest feeling towards professional sailors from their own countries, achieving a feeling of national pride, as well as for hero’s achieving remarkable results. They do not like the image of sailing being an elite sport, with winning depending on money.

“There is that nationalism, that pride of wanting to see your country succeed”

“I tend to watch sports quicker when Dutch athletes are involved, who are performing well”

“Leave.. all behind and just follow that dream”

“Somehow have to show the skill of the sailor, that the sailor and the skipper and the crew are incredibly skillful people and they are not just handed this piece of equipment for the millions and millions of dollars knowing that just putting it in the direction that the compass says to point it in. I think that’s just something they need to make sure or that comes across”

(3e) Social: attracted towards the social gathering aspect of viewing, ranging from friends, specialists and fans and with family as a tradition. Within this segment sometimes a lack of understanding of the sport existed.

” Well if I were sitting by myself in the house, I wouldn’t think much of putting on a sailing race, but on boxing day, when the family would all sit down and we would watch the start of the race, and we wouldn’t place proper bets but we would think about who we want to win”

“I like to watch it with my dad, or in a bar with a screen”



New technologies can and should be used to increase reach and engagement with sailing audiences. The choice of concepts and technology (content and visualization) differs based on the main type of sailing audience you need.

(4) Concepts:

Ambitious: technology to make visible tactics

“To be able to hear the conversations that are going on board in terms of tactics about picking up wind or currents or why they are tacking now”

Humble: create hero’s through stories (around persons, boats, achievements)

“It’s more like I am thinking of Henk de Velde or Laura Dekker, these kinds of people who just really went”

Activity: add the suspense through entertainment factors (films, sounds, close-ups….)

“I think it adds to the excitement. It’s like an adrenaline kind of thing so you get excited by watching something that might have been dangerous if you were in the same situation”

Social: help share (amusing, thrill increasing) content before, during and after the live race

“I share it [pictures, videos, comments] when I’m around the table, a restaurant, with friends at home, a bar”

Utilizing needs:

Achievement: Providing the viewer with a feeling of needing to accomplish a greater goal

Exhibition: Providing the viewer with amusing content to excite and thrill others

Abasement:  Providing the viewer with suspenseful, uncertain and dangerous content,

Deference Viewers value the admiration of superior players and pursue their abilities

Inviolacy Maintaining the dignity of sailing as a sport by emphasizing the skill and capabilities that sailors perform at a sailing event

Play Providing the consumer with relaxing, amusing and entertaining content

Cognizance Stimulating the cognitive needs of the viewer by expanding their understanding of the sport