The IDEC Group’s involvement in ocean racing began sixteen years ago, in a very strange and unusual manner, but which was fundamentally very simple. Francis Joyon and the IDEC Group, through its president Patrice Lafargue, have written some of the finest chapters in the history of sailing, not based on a technological challenge or on their communications strategy, but on a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.
When Patrice Lafargue, a young business leader contacted Francis, the day after his boat capsized in the most disastrous Route du Rhum in late 2002, it was firstly the mystery surrounding this unusual character that he wanted to understand. This was a sailor unlike any other champion that as a sports fan and a fan of car racing in particular, he felt he simply had to get to know. It then seemed obvious to help Francis with his crazy solo round the world multihull voyages. The rest is history with one record after another, one achievement after another. The relationship between Francis and Patrice would become increasingly close, as the young firm developed, offering a rare source of inspiration and pride within the company, while externally their reputation would grow beyond anything imaginable in those early days.
This partnership is indeed one of the best examples of loyalty and longevity in the world of sports sponsorships: it has been sixteen years now since the IDEC Group and Francis Joyon first sailed together on the world’s oceans. As we can all see, they have been highly successful. No smoke and mirrors or mindblowing technological development here. While doing this, they have been supporting the French Brain and spinal cord institute (ICM). “Investment in sponsoring never exceeds 1% of our turnover,” declared Patrice Lafargue.
This way of thinking matches that of Francis Joyon, who is used to doing a lot with little. His shore teams are reduced to next to nothing. This legend of ocean racing, who for a long time in the colours of the IDEC Group was the fastest solo round the world sailor before taking the same honour with a crew (a double achievement which he is the only person in the world to have pulled off), watches every penny. With a similar mindset, in the IDEC Group they don’t pay attention to the all powerful media feedback figures. His achievements speak for themselves and the word ‘buzz’ has no place in the company.
Inside as well as outside the company…
Authenticity may be seen as key to this close collaboration, both in terms of the human relationship between the racer and his sponsor and in the type of communication, which means natural openness from Francis, who appears to be incapable of putting on an act around his sailing achievements. Even if the media coverage may suffer, Joyon, in total agreement with the IDEC Group, shares everything. The triumphs, of which there have been many and the bad luck, such as when he ran aground and wrecked the first IDEC on the rocks off Penmarc’h at the tip of Brittany, just having smashed the Atlantic record, or when he capsized off New York. Francis Joyon with his amazingly clam and relaxed sounding voice seems to be completely detached from the joys and suffering. There is no tugging at the heart strings here, but everyone is with him. It is one of Patrice Lafargue’s beliefs too. The firm, in spite of its rapid growth at the same time as the series of successes achieved by the maxi-trimaran, jealously guards its spirit of being a family business. “Internally, it is as important as externally. Sport offers the firm a strong identity and generates a lot of positive enthusiasm. My staff are proud of displaying the firm’s colours,” explained Patrice.
Wins have been experienced with the excitement in the company as losses and when Francis and his extraordinary crew triumphed in the Jules Verne Trophy at the finish in Brest in January 2017, feelings and passions ran high throughout the company from the highest ranks to the lowest worker. Behind the amazing success, there has been a clear method based on the application of common sense and that is shared by the sailor and the business leader.