30 Under 30: A Different Kind of Horsepower

Today we publish the first in a series of articles from the 2018 group of young leaders in Irish Sport that formed our 30 Under 30, supported by PwC.

This reflection on switching motorsport for a different kind of horsepower comes from Declan Healy who was one of those who switched jobs over the course of the year, benefitting from the leadership potential he had shown at Mondello Park.

Starting next Monday we will begin to publish our 2019 Group of young leaders.  We already have a flood of really strong nominations.  If you know of someone who deserves to join them and gain recognition who the potential they have, contact us today quoting ’30 Under 30′

A different type of Horsepower…

Since being listed on the Sport for Business 30 Under 30, I was fortunate enough to be presented with an incredible opportunity to join the team at Leopardstown Racecourse. Moving from Motorsport to Horse Racing was a daunting task but an opportunity to join an industry in which Ireland is currently a world leader was an opportunity not to be missed. Growing up on the Kildare border, surrounded by the industry, it was not a massive jump into the unknown, but one in which I am still learning.

With the horse racing industry in Ireland currently employing approx. 26,000 people; generating in excess of €1.8bn of economic activity in Ireland; to be afforded the opportunity to immerse myself in this industry and join the biggest racecourse in the country was one I relished. Joining an incredibly talented team, as well as learning from Leopardstown Racecourse CEO Pat Keogh was also another key factor in making the move. I’m hoping to expand my knowledge and expertise in sports marketing and events working with Pat and the rest of the team.

Currently, Leopardstown is also undergoing a massive infrastructure re-development, due to be finished in 2021, ensuring race day facilities are among the finest in Europe, something that we are well aware is a key factor in the customer experience.

Having made the move from Motorsport to Horse Racing, it was interesting to see the similarities in challenges facing both sports and sporting events in general. Embracing technology as part of the race day experience and converting casual sports fans and sports viewers into gate receipts are fast becoming the main challenge. Horse Racing in Ireland has a loyal following with the sport continuously featuring in the top 5 sports in the country, but converting a new generation of fans is a key goal of Leopardstown and the industry as a whole. Like other sports; live action replays, second screen technology and live race reports are offerings that venues like ours are working to try and provide to our patrons to supersede people’s expectations of the race day experience in the near future.

This will come through increased immersion of technologies around the venue in the re-development with the first key piece of technological infrastructure already in place at Leopardstown in the form of free venue-wide WIFI; a modern day basic requirement but we are proud to say we are the first racecourse in Ireland to make it available across the venue, indoor and out.

Another challenge similar to all sports across Ireland is a demand for a sense of occasion; the feeling of being a part of something unique. The bigger days are more important for revenue in all sports as the requirement to make each day its own occasion, with a distinct story or arc is what makes the cosmopolitan Dublin sports fan choose to spend their time at Leopardstown Racecourse over other sporting venues in Ireland and the UK.

The Leopardstown Christmas Festival is now a Christmas tradition for racing fans and socialisers alike, Bulmers Live at Leopardstown evenings have become a favourite amongst the many corporates in the South Dublin area, Longines Irish Champions Weekend exudes premium from the hospitality offering right down to the quality of racing on track and now Dublin Racing Festival in only its second year has become a focal point of the national hunt calendar. And the aim is to grow an identity around each race day.

As always, the key message in sport remains the same. Sport is tribal and to be a part of it and experience it is the biggest selling factor. To feel the ground shudder as the horses charge up the home straight; to hear the 15,000 strong crowd roar home the favourite is where the true magic of sporting events is and all this was on show only two weeks ago at Dublin Racing Festival which has now become the newest, must attend fixture here at Leopardstown.

With 23 race days across the year at Leopardstown Racecourse, massive infrastructure investment and Ireland currently leading the equine world, it is an incredible time to be working at Ireland’s premier racecourse.


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