In the past I have written often about aspects of the sport of aerobatics, and alluded to whether it is, or should be, made into a form of public entertainment. This may seem like heresy to those of us that participate in the sport, and naturally wish that we can evangelically ‘spread the word’ and show our sport to the world (big note ourselves?). Do not for a minute think that I don’t also want this, or that I wish the sport to be (some would say, remain) ‘exclusive’! In contrast, I want to make the sport more accessible to all those people and pilots out there who want the opportunity to participate.
But public consumption of the sport is a different thing to mass participation – think about it.
The media space is dominated by high-profile events with corporate backing. Minor sports get little or no airtime, particularly and quite obviously, if the media outlet has no financial association with the sport in question. Even major international sporting events get little or no airtime on competing commercial channels. Only anti-syphoning laws and sports of national public interest are referred to in competitor broadcasts. In a similar fashion, key dates such as long weekends and national holidays are dominated and ‘owned’ by major sporting and corporate media backed events.
This is the environment in which we live as minnows, and challenging for coverage, even a mention, at those key times, will not reward the time and effort invested.
So far I have only sketched out the environment we live in, without acknowledging the quite obvious: That watching competitive aerobatics is like watching paint dry! This maybe too harsh, but would be a difficult position to defeat in a debate. We all know it, the action is high, far, and usually in a poor position for public viewing unless the public happens to be located with the judges. Then, the sequences are repetitive, of varying quality, the scoring method arcane, and scores slow to be released, with no immediacy to allow the viewers to make qualitative and quantitative links between the flights they have just watched. Also, and importantly, the participants are remote from the public, encased in an aircraft, and don’t wear lycra (imagine the sight...). Additionally, most people do not fly, and are shit scared of small aeroplanes. It is thus difficult for the viewer to associate with the sport at all, unlike cycling, motor racing or football (insert preferred code here).
Yes, I may be overly negative here – playing the devil’s advocate. But these are the problems we face.
The upside: Yes, with the advent of small video cameras, automated score processing, digital editing and emerging sports oriented channels looking for content, plus the internet, we could possibly put together a highlights package suitable for broadcast. The cost of production and ‘gifting’ (at best) of the programme to a broadcaster would be at our expense, from my investigations. Recouping the costs via advertising is the obvious reply to this.
Neglecting the ‘chicken or the egg’ question, how then do we satisfy the sponsors we wish to attract? Branding of aircraft and uniforms/racegear is the obvious answer. Association with the Australian Aerobatic Team may be saleable. Provide exclusive hospitality at events, sponsors can network with like souls, drinking free champagne and eating otolin while the flying takes place unnoticed? What more pervasive demands may be made? Changing the format of the flying, streamlining the scoring process, removing the lower categories from Tier One events.....?
This may be Ok, provided the sponsorship $$ was sufficient to cover the cost of all this, including the wages for someone to arrange it all while we, the AAC, focus on running the event. Money would also need to be sufficient to support development programmes and lower category competitions (Tier Two?), otherwise the pool at the top will dry up. In short, we are talking about a substantial amount of money in sponsorship, and a substantial amount of management time to make it happen. The equal amount of either could probably send several teams, including aircraft, to World Championships!!