Following the success of the London Bridge Seaplane Classic, I thought we might add another event to make it even more special.
The London Bridge is a landmark and a focal point for tourism in Lake Havasu City. Great Britain won the Schneider event 3 consecutive times, therefore ending the series and keeping the Trophy. The Schneider Trophy and the winning Supermarine S6b are displayed in London at the Science Museum. Not far from that museum stood the London Bridge that now resides in Lake Havasu City, AZ. USA.
The Schneider Cup races were the most prestigious and famous races of their time and were for seaplanes. Do you see the connection?
The question is, special event or really special event? A really special event in my mind is where we can play to audiences far beyond the RC community. How can we make this event really special? Short term, we needed to promote the heck out of it. Get the media involved. Long term, we needed to get mainstream companies involved to sponsor the event and bring along mainstream media.
After consultations with club members, friends in the media and RC industry we came up with a set of rules we believed would make the event very special and viable. Among the primary considerations was the scale of these aircraft. Larger aircraft fly more realistically and can handle rougher water should we experience windy conditions. Another consideration important to our longer term goal is that at this scale, it would be harder for mainstream people to call these toys, important in getting serious sponsorships
First things first! In order to interest potential sponsors and media, you need a visual presentation. Problem #1, this type of event with these aircraft in this scale has never been done before. How to create a visual presentation without any visuals? Remember back then, home computers were pretty dumb and CGI was the domain of Hollywood.
Solution to problem #1 was to create a visual. We chose to build one of the aircraft. If the event had been in England, Italy or France we probably would have chosen a Supermarine, Macchi or Deperdussin. In that we were from the USA, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, the American home of the London Bridge we chose one of America's winning aircraft, the Curtiss R3C-2. With pilot Jimmy Doolittle flying, it won the 1925 Schneider Cup Race. To conform to our rules, the Curtiss would have to be built 1/3rd scale.
The Curtiss was used in various ways. We
displayed the work in progress Curtiss at events and
trade shows. When completed we sent photos to
media and took videos of it for developing present-
ations. The shear size grabbed the attention of
potential sponsors . This was "NO TOY AIRPLANE".
The response from within the industry and especially
the media was huge.Four of the major US magazines
and a couple of foreign magazines placing articles
monthly, nearly a year before the first event, we were
ecstatic. We received mixed results when we tried
many companies outside our industry. Part of it was timing, (Corporations have budget meetings and allocate funds for the next year.) and part was we had no track record yet to convince them to part with their valuable advertising and promotion budget.
For major sponsorship and television coverage, we needed more money than our industry was willing part with. We needed to solicit companies that would benefit from mass exposure and association with a special event . We knew it was a long shot the first year. We also knew "If you do not ask, the answer is always NO!"
It is important to feel that your event is very
special and important. It is paramount to realize
that you must make your event special, important and valuable to the potential sponsor.
(This is also how you get your community on your side.) Your event is a vehicle to promote the sponsor and make him or his product look good. Make the mass audience want to go out and buy his service or product. Unless you can convince the potential sponsor that he will get more bang for his buck with you than somewhere else, you will not succeed. Know your potential sponsors needs and market to tailor your presentation to best promote his product or service. You are looking for financial help, and don't get greedy, because your hobby and your event has tremendous value also.
FORBES MAGAZINE: When an event is promoted properly, it will create its own momentum or life of its own. Negotiation can go on for many months for sponsorships like the Coke or Ford ones, so when my wife Katie, who keeps me and all the crazy stuff I do organized, told me I had a call from Forbes, who I have not contacted, I think she says FORD! To my surprise, the gentleman on the phone explains that he is the editor for FORBES Magazine and Mr. Malcolm Forbes had heard of our event and requested that they cover it. (FORBES Magazine is the most respected financial and business magazine in the country, perhaps the world. See what I mean about a life of its own!) The gentleman says that he has only one request, an exclusive. It is about 6 months until the event and we have 11 RC magazines requesting and having been granted press credentials. I explain this to the gentleman and he says that they request exclusivity for mainstream magazines like Life, Time, People, US News and World Report etc. I was caught off guard by Forbes, however I was relatively sure these other magazines were not coming so I granted them their exclusive.
In the big picture, long term goals this could be the key to opening some big financial doors. FORBES magazine finds its way to the CEO's offices, coffee tables in board rooms and ad agencies as well as lawyers and dentist offices. This exposure in such a prestigious magazine will only help to get our foot in the door in the future.
FORBES sent a reporter to cover the event and brought in a photographer from the San Diego area. In less than 2 months of the event, they scooped everyone with a 4 page color article entitled "Doolittle's disciples". Forbes cover date for the article was December 25, 1989.
I am not sure if the RC Magazines were upset by Forbes beating them to the news stands by 2 months or what, but the editor of one magazine really got upset about the Forbes article. He felt it necessary to criticize the article and that I would allow facts to be so far off. He was referring to the cost of these aircraft.
The link "Doolittle's Disciples" will take you to the Forbes article. Read it and see for yourself. Keep in mind that the readership of Forbes are the movers and shakers of finance and industry. These are the people that have prototypes of all kinds made for their companies. They pay designers, pattern makers, toolers and engineers to come up with these prototypes and pay hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for these one of a kind products. Are they as complicated as an RC Giant Scale aircraft? Maybe they are and maybe they are not! One thing is definitely true, the RC modeler has to research, design, engineer, build, finish, install the electronics and then get up the nerve to test fly his year long project that has cost him hundreds, perhaps a thousand hours of time or more and a bunch of cash. It takes a great deal of skills to be a scratch builder and if we would be asked to build one of these aircraft for a corporation, they would expect to pay us $50.00 per hour for say 500 hours, that would be $25,000.00. We as modelers undervalue our skills or ignore the time we spend because it is our hobby and we do it because we love it. The example above would be for approximately 12.5 forty hour weeks. The Curtiss had two people that had been professional pattern makers ($45.00 per hour at the time) and three other modelers and it took us 6 months. Conservatively, the Curtiss would be a $40,000.00 project if commissioned. I have no apologies for the Forbes article.
Forbes is a respected magazine and I feel the article more closely represents the true value of the magnificent replicas that were entered in the Schneider Cup Re-Enactment than the magazine that complained about their value. Apparently that magazine felt that the talent these scratch builders have has little value. I find that sad and unappreciative of them. Without modelers whose imagination and skill to create unique projects the magazines would not have anything very interesting to publish, and we would not want to pay to buy their magazines. Enough of that!