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Volume 21 No. 2
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Plugged In: Cem Bozkurt, Alvimedica

The business-to-business side of sponsorship spending doesn’t typically get as much attention as what the likes of beverage, auto and fast-food brands do, but the dollars can be just as large. Case in point: Alvimedica, a Turkish-based manufacturer of stents and catheters. Dr. Cem Bozkurt, CEO of Alvimedica, talks here about the company spending $20 million to sponsor a boat and a team in the Volvo Ocean Race, where 65-foot sailboats will traverse four oceans and 40,000 nautical miles during a nine-month competition that starts in October.

Look at the amount of [media] impressions this event gets around the world. Last time, it was 1.5 billion. If we get that many people to learn the word Alvimedica and realize our boat is the one with a big heart on it, they will remember us and what we do in health care.

No different than Bud and Pepsi: As a medical-device maker, the business case for us is just like the beers and soft drinks you are used to in sports. We are a young brand [founded in 2007] in a competitive industry and we want to be better known. Brand awareness is just as important in our field, especially as we open up new markets like North America, where no one knows us.

Return on investment: We already see ways where that [$20 million investment] is paying us back. We’re out there with brand-recognition studies, and I can tell you that over the past few months that has taken a tremendous jump.

Why sailing?: In many countries, health care companies have generally not been able to advertise directly to the public, so many of them end up in sponsorship, whether it’s sports or music and the arts. … For any health care company, we’re dealing human body/human life, so sports makes sense. For us, the best match was sailing, because we are curing kids with heart disease and 70-year-olds. Sailing is a sport you can do your entire life.

Charting a course: We’re targeting cardiologists, hospital CFOs and senior hospital management. If you look at the 10 stopovers for the race, we’re already doing business in nine of them, and we’re launching in North America. So you’ve got an event that covers our most important markets. On stopovers, we will be doing some scientific activity, conferences and presentations, showing results from clinical trials and talking about our product portfolio. We looked hard for something global where we could really make a mark, and the branding opportunities in sailing combined with the fact that you aren’t competing with dozens of companies sponsoring the same thing really made the Volvo Ocean Race a pretty easy decision for us.

— Terry Lefton