High-quality multimedia content beamed via the Inmarsat satellite network attracted record audiences and media coverage for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
This year's yacht race drew a global TV audience of 1.55 billion, an increase of 16 per cent on the previous round-the-world event in 2008-9.
There was a 47.6 per cent increase in TV news audiences, a 42 per cent rise in TV broadcast hours and a 94.8 per cent leap in online articles, according to figures released by Volvo Ocean Race.
And the total views by fans on YouTube soared by a massive 655 per cent to more than 8 million.
Central to the surge in coverage were the Inmarsat-sponsored Media Crew Members (MCMs), the multimedia reporters embedded on each of the six yachts.
The MCMs' role was to provide regular feeds of HD video, including live calls streamed from the boat via Inmarsat FleetBroadband, as well as still images, audio clips and written reports.
“The Media Crew Members' performance took a big step forward,” reported Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad.
“They sent back more content with higher quality than ever before, much of it going straight into news reports on some of the world's biggest TV and digital platforms.
“No other top-flight sporting event has anything like the MCM programme.”
In a sign of the growing shift in the way content is consumed, media value was for the first time higher from online sources than from print, with both platforms showing significant growth.
Pictures and videos were particularly popular as drivers of engagement on Facebook, with the fan-base growing from about 40,000 at the start of the race to more than 200,000 by the end.
The official race and game websites received more than 63 million visits.
And the yacht tracker app, with position reports relayed continuously via Inmarsat, enjoyed a record 7.89 million page views.
The exceptional quality of coverage made possible by Inmarsat FleetBroadband has resulted in Volvo Ocean Race being put forward for a technology award by The International Sports Event Management (ISEM).
Inmarsat was Race Partner and Official Satellite Communications Provider for the 2011-12 event, which took place across five continents, with stops in Spain, South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand, Brazil, Portugal, France and Ireland.
The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will start in Alicante in late 2014.
“Going forward, we will continue to take this unique human and sporting challenge out to an audience that is truly global,” said CEO Knut Frostad.
“These numbers demonstrate that not only was 2011-12 the closest race in the history of our event, but also a huge success commercially.”
Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat Vice President of External Affairs, added: “The amazing success of this event demonstrates how Inmarsat technology can power global connectivity for vessels of all sizes.
“It also demonstrates the potential for other premier sporting events operating in extreme conditions to attract a global audience of their own.”