Horse Racing Ireland is the first sporting body in Ireland to activate WhatsApp as a platform for conversational selling.

It is part of an ongoing targeted campaign aimed at engaging 18-34-year-olds to try racing as an entertainment outlet.

As a result of the move HRI’s ticketing system has been integrated with the Whatsapp platform. The channel will be developed as a platform for customer engagement, promotions and sales and has been activated just ahead of the Irish Champions Festival which takes place across Leopardstown and the Curragh on the 9th and 10th September.

On the back of 2021 Red C Research which identified a strong appetite among 18-34-year-olds to attend horse racing events, HRI launched its ‘Proper Day Out’ campaign in June 2022 which was led by an advertising campaign, comprised of targeted TV spots around programmes such as Love Island and GAA Finals which have high viewership amongst that key cohort.

The campaign was also supported by digital and social media and a year-long partnership with Ladbible. In 2023 the marketing campaign has been extended to include digital audio and promotion at large concerts and events.

The latest Red C Research commissioned by HRI indicates that 58% of 18-34-year-olds are interested in attending a future race meeting and 65% are interested in receiving information on horse racing events.

Cost of living concerns are driving a 6% decline in consumer intent to attend live sports events in 2023 but 32% of the 18-34 cohort expect to increase spend on entertainment in the coming months which is 6% higher than the all adult average.

“It is pleasing to see that the work we have been doing to broaden the appeal of horse racing among 18-34 year olds is driving strong positive consumer sentiment,” said Paul Dermody, CEO of HRI Racecourses and HRI Director of Commercial & Marketing.

“The Proper Day Out campaign will continue to position horse racing events as fun days out for all ages but particularly the 18-34s who have a strong intent to increase spend on entertainment.”

“With 27% of adults intending to attend more horse racing events this year there are real positives for horse racing to build on in what is a very challenging time for consumers as discretionary spend is squeezed.”

“There have been strong attendances already this year at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February which had a 40% increase in attendance on 2022 (34,591 vs 25,210) and this trend continued through to the Galway Races Festival which had an increase of 5% on 2022’s attendance and we know anecdotally that these figures are being bolstered by increased attendances from 18-34-year-olds.”

“The upcoming Irish Champions Festival is the jewel of the flat season and another attractive sporting occasion that is accessible to younger consumers.”

“Conversational selling is an exciting, innovative new avenue for us to develop that relationship and better understand the needs of this experience focused consumer. WhatsApp has 99% penetration of the Irish market and it is an established communication channel for 18-34 year olds,” continued Dermody.

The recent poll of over 1,000 people, conducted by Red C between the 9-15th February 2023, charts the adult population attitudes to horse racing and intent to attend sport events this year. 38% of sports people stated they are interested in Horse Racing which puts it on a par with Hurling (38%) and amongst the top five sports of interest alongside Rugby (57%), Soccer (49%) and Gaelic Football (41%).