The IDEC Group, which specialise in made-to-measure buildings for individuals, firms and public bodies, whether we are looking at commercial premises, housing or office space, has developed rapidly in parallel with its sports partnerships. From a turnover of 20 million euros fifteen years ago to 300 million euros today, and with never more than 1% of this invested in sponsorships, IDEC has made the most of social media to extend its partnerships in sailing, car racing, football and rugby. As Francis Joyon prepares to tackle the Jules Verne Trophy, we find out more from Patrice Lafargue, the CEO of IDEC.

Patrice Lafargue, IDEC supports the sailor, Francis Joyon, but is also involved in car racing, football and rugby. Among other partnerships, you are partners to the Stade Malherbe de Caen football team and the Aviron Bayonnais rugby team. Why?

P.L: The main sport, in which we have invested the most, is sailing. That’s our biggest budget, with the support going to Francis Joyon, who is about to set off again around the world this winter with a crew, after smashing the solo record. This has been our historic partnership. It came about quite naturally after meeting Francis, a sailor of the old school, who can do a lot with little. We’ve had some fantastic stories and great adventures together. Sailing conveys environmental values and an idea of freedom, which matches what we want to express.”

How about car racing and team sports?

P.L. “As for car racing, with IDEC SPORT RACING, I managed to turn my own passion for cars into a vector of communication. We have lots of clients and professional relations, who are interested in car racing. We also help Caen football club (Div 1), and Blois (from a lower league) as well as the Aviron Bayonnais rugby club (Top 14). Socially, it is important to support these sports, which attract many amateur players. We feel we need to be involved. On top of that, when you’re looking at team sports, you reach the general public, as these sports get a lot of coverage in the media. It’s important in terms of local relationships. I often go with my fellow executives to support these teams and we invite along our employees… so it’s very wide-ranging.”

How big is IDEC today in terms of the business and workforce?

P.L. “To sum up, IDEC had a turnover of 20 million euros in 2000. Sixteen years on and we have a turnover of 300 million euros and 260 employees. We’re a small business, so our sponsorships match our business level. We don’t go spending money we don’t have… For a company of our size, TV campaigns for example, cost way too much. And to be honest, I don’t know any better investment in communications than sailing.”

 1% of the turnover goes to sponsorships
How much do you spend on sponsorships each year?

P.L. “The ceiling is fixed at less than 1% of our turnover. That’s not much. It does mean that the investment increases as the business develops, but only proportionally and reasonably. We get lots of requests to sponsor this or that sport, so we go through that carefully…”

In short, IDEC has multiplied its turnover by a factor of 15 in 15 years. Is this partly down to sponsorships and your support for Francis Joyon over 14 years?

P.L. “I would say that if we are where we are today, it’s clear that communication has contributed to that. A business, which doesn’t communicate cannot survive. But having said that, this is not something we have calculated. I don’t believe that a company of our size can reason exclusively in terms of financial results, when looking at sponsoring and any analysis of the reputation of the brand has to be handled with caution. I have always refused to accept this type of calculation. I believe more in the relations we manage to develop via sponsoring, both inside and outside of the firm. I can see though that we have evolved by communicating proportionally to our growth… and that has always been favourable for us. I would say too that it is partly down to this means of communication that we managed to develop in this way.”

At your level, it is less expensive to invest in sponsorships than for example in major TV ad campaigns?

“A lot less expensive, of course. The development of social media is something we have engaged in too. It allows you to share your results and the adventures of the sportsmen we are supporting. Social media is more easily affordable and allows us to target particular groups, which is something we aim to do, as a form of indirect communication. In the end what counts, in any case for us, is to create a community around the brand.”

IDEC SPORT brings together all the firms within the Group

You have even set up a specific brand, IDEC SPORT, which brings together all the different sports partnerships. Why?

P.L. “Because today with other firms joining us or being taken over, there are around fifteen companies in the Group. That means that on average there is one new company joining the Group each year. They don’t all have the same name and IDEC SPORT is the single brand, which unites them. On top of that, IDEC SPORT creates links between sailing fans, who can become car racing enthusiasts, or football fans, who follow the car racing because of this. That’s important once again, both inside and outside of the firm.”

Internal communications are important for you?

P.L. “Yes, indeed. There’s one thing you have to understand with these sponsorships. Inside the company, it is as important as outside. The sport gives a strong identity to the firm and encourages everyone to pull together. My staff are proud of the team’s colours. Incidentally, I should say that I enjoy taking part in sports myself displaying the colours of IDEC, while I don’t expect them to do that. Thanks to Francis, we all set off together around the world. That’s huge. After thrilling us with his solo achievements, as he is the fastest solo round the world sailor, he will be setting off again this winter to attempt to crewed round the world record and grab the Jules Verne Trophy. Once again, it is as if all our staff are setting sail with him. I think I’ve been spoilt as a sponsor… with all these successes over the past fourteen years.”

Isn’t the Jules Verne Trophy a bit expensive for a company of your size?

P.L: “No, because we did it, while remaining very strict about the budgets. For example, by buying an existing boat, which meant we avoided the huge investment required, when you have to design and build a boat from scratch. Once again, this is a reasonable and carefully thought out investment, which will allow us to experience some fantastic things and once again it involves all of us together.”


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