We met with new Leopardstown CEO Tim Husbands and Marketing Manager Vicki Donlon this week to see how they are getting ready for the show.
“It’s a city-based festival which works really well for the population on our doorstep and a bridge from our Christmas Festival to Cheltenham that attracts the racing audience,” said Husbands who is looking forward to his first festival after joining from the Titanic Museum in Belfast at the end of last year.
“We are marketing it as an experience and that comes through across a number of different strands.”
“Eight Grade One races and €2.1 million in prize money attracts the stars of the sport and we put them centre stage but with plenty more to reach out and attract people for whom racing might be new but entertainment is right on their agenda.”
“Horse Racing Ireland identified that urban populations aged between 25 and 34 were a prime target and that’s the bullseye of who will be here this week,” said Donlon.
“They might come for Aslan or for an excuse to get dressed up but the intention is to expose them to the excitement of watching real quality racing.”
“This is a great opportunity to reach out to people and to businesses. Getting racing onto the agenda for social outings benefits us at Leopardstown but also the wider racing industry,” said Husbands.
With 1.3 million people going racing last year there is a strong base to work on and a strong appeal for sponsors.
“We look at our sponsors as partners,” he continued.
“Bringing new companies in and working closely with them to meet their needs is really important. Savills came on board with our main Christmas feature last year and this year we worked with them on a sustainability project that saw branded keep cups in use around the racecourse.”
We will be looking at the detail behind this initiative in a feature over the coming weeks.
William Fry, Matheson and Nathaniel Lacy Solicitors are all involved as ‘partners’ this weekend and will be entertaining high-end clients giving them a taste of high-class sport in a relaxed and business-friendly environment.
Many will then either head on to the Aviva Stadium to watch Ireland against Scotland in the Guinness Six Nations or watch it on big screens around the course.
“Kick off is 25 minutes after the last race and there is a real appeal for people who are here for the weekend to come on either day,” said Husbands.
“Around a quarter of our pre-booked racegoers are travelling over from Scotland and England.”
“Racing should play a bigger part in the promotion of the island to overseas visitors and this is proof of how that can deliver a real impact.”
Husbands is on the board of Fáilte Ireland so watch that space. We are also hopeful he will join us for our next Sport for Business members Round table on March 24th.
“It works well in terms of regionality and seasonality so there is definitely a conversation to be had there.”
“It’s going to add a real sense of fun this year and it will be exciting to see some of the ideas they have in mind on how to promote.”
The impact can already be seen with ownership of the Green Luas Line that runs past the track portraying strong promotional messages around the Festival.
PCI is the sponsor of the Champion Hurdle this year having rebranded from BHP.
“They provide a strong insurance offer across the racing industry and using their partnership with us is an effective way of getting the new brand across. They are very proud of being involved with the race over ten years.”
The benchmark of attendance for the weekend is around 12,000 but there is great potential for that to grow as well. Next year’s festival will be on the weekend before the start of the Guinness Six Nations which may provide another boost by giving it a clear run at the Dublin sporting audience.
The crossover from Christmas is around 60 per cent of people who will be coming back having enjoyed that experience,” said Donlon. It’s also fresh from payday after the longest month of the year.”
The quality of racing is second to none. The experience of enjoying high-class sport and getting Aslan thrown in for free after watching the Rugby in a group is compelling.
Sharon Fuller from PwC and ironically Garry Kelleher from Fáilte Ireland are the winners in our Members competition this week to win a pair of tickets to the Festival.
Image Credit: Dan Sheridan, Inpho.ie