Are you a sports lover – if so, here are a few sports trivia questions to start you off;
- In 2017, 4 of the 10 most attended sporting events in the UK are all in the same sport – which sport is that?
- Rugby Union?
- Which sport is the 2nd most attended sport in the UK after football (obviously)?
- Motor Racing
- Rugby Union?
- Which sport has the highest annual single event prize money day?
- Motor Racing?
The answer to all of these is rather surprisingly…..D. Other….more specifically the sport of horseracing. (see full answer details at the foot of the page).
With regards to attendance, Football is the massive market leader with 42.8 million attendees. Second to that is horseracing with 5.8million attendees which is neatly a million clear of Rugby Union and over double that of Cricket.
And yet if you look at the respective sports, and what big UK consumer/FMCG brands currently associate with – there seems to be a large blind spot when it comes to horseracing.
But…but…but, I hear the bearded marketeers splutter- “We don’t align our brands with horse racing because it is all about gambling, is attended by old farts with roll ups hanging off their lips and is a huge turn off for female audiences. It also doesn’t appeal to our key ‘millennial tribe’ audience who value the communal cool experience of large events such as music festivals to engage with brands in a meaningful way”.
These may be commonly held perceptions but even a cursory look at the reality (and the numbers) tells rather a different story;
‘Horse racing is all about gambling’ – well there is no doubt that gambling and horse racing have a close relationship but tell me a major sport that doesn’t. The vast majority of premiership football clubs have official betting partners (in 2018, nine of the twenty premier league clubs had betting brands on their shirts) and most premier league teams in the UK have betting kiosks in and around their stadiums. During the season all the major high street betting shops are advertising football odds in their windows for every game so it is interesting that horse racing is overly singled out for this association. The relationship between sport and gambling is also starting to change – there was a really interesting move recently by GVC Holdings, the owners of bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral, which has called for an end to all sports betting advertising during broadcasts, as well as a ban on football shirt sponsorship by gambling companies. If this was the case, then there will be a reduction in the public’s perception of a direct link between sport and gambling going forwards which many would celebrate.
‘Women are not interested in horse racing and it’s not family friendly’– again the data tells a rather different story. In 2017, of the 5.99 million people who went to the races, nearly 40% were women. On top of this, nearly double the amount of horseracing fans are female versus the average UK sports fan (39% vs 20%). Horseracing also has a strong focus on becoming a more family-oriented day out with the 60+ courses around the UK offering over 80 tailored family days which include funfairs, concerts and lots of kids’ activities. To increase this offering all kids under 18 get free entry making this a really cost-effective family day out.
‘Our millennial target audience needs a festival-like experience’ – where once it was true that the end of a days racing conjured up images of ripped betting slips blowing in the wind, nowadays the large racing days often wrap up with laser light shows and throbbing drum and bass. Major courses across the UK have understood that their audiences need an experience on top of racing and have responded by putting top headliner concerts on to both broaden and lengthen the appeal of the day. Over the last 2 years acts such as George Ezra, Jess Glynne, Kaiser Chiefs, Paloma Faith and Rudimental amongst many others have performed (or are confirmed for this summer) at racecourses across the UK…..not a bad festival line-up all told. ‘On days when a musical performance is put on after the racing, crowds can now be overwhelmingly made up of race-goers below the age of 40, and can feature considerably more young women than men’ (Daily Telegraph,21 Aug, 2018).
Given this information, it is rather surprising that more consumer/FMCG brands are not involved in engaging racegoers. Whilst there are some notable exceptions (e.g. Magners and Cheltenham) the current sponsorship landscape in horseracing is dominated by sovereign wealth funds and luxury brands, there does appear to be a big opportunity for many more consumer/FMCG brands to involve themselves in very uncluttered and underutilised consumer categories.
These existing horseracing sponsorships are also quite traditionally executed with on-course branding and other forms of TV facing brand exposure the main activities. Currently there is little consumer facing brand activations/experiential marketing undertaken at these events featuring 30,000+ attendees daily. As brands scramble to achieve a decent share of voice and meaningful engagement with consumers at cluttered large music festivals there appears to be a readymade ‘blank canvas’ audience awaiting engagement at major horse racing events – especially as the ‘experience’ of the two types of events converge more every year.
To finish with a very mangled analogy – given the opportunity horseracing offers in terms of audience demographics and brand engagement opportunities…it might be worth consumer brands giving horseracing a lot less stick and rather more carrot.
- Other – Royal Ascot (3), Cheltenham Festival (4), Grand National (10), Epsom Derby (9)
- Other – Football (42.8m), Horseracing (5.8m), Rugby Union (4.9m) & Cricket (2.2m)
- Other – QIPCO British Champions Day (£4.3m prize fund)