Few sports events in recent history have courted as much controversy as this year’s running of the Everest – and the horses haven’t even left the gate.
The decision to promote the event on the sails of the Sydney Opera House has received backlash from the general public, most politicians and the media and advertising industry.
Whether it is difficult to ascertain if any publicity is good publicity in this instance, the Australian Turf Club (ATC) has been busy behind the scenes marketing the six week Everest Carnival to racegoers for the second running of the world’s richest horse race. Racing NSW lead on marketing The Everest, ATC lead on the other carnival days.
Prior to the Opera House stunt, ATC head of marketing Chris Bevan told AdNews he is confident the second year will also be a sell out and hopes to leverage hype surrounding the day to allow racegoers to cascade into other race meets.
“The issue we had is if we've got this rising event like the Everest, the risk was it could swamp everything else,” Bevan said, prior to the Opera House scandal doing just that in the media.
“We thought if it's the Everest that's capturing the attention of a potential new race goer, then we've got the opportunity to push to him or her to a myriad of other top-class race days.”
Everest attracts first-timers
At last year’s Everest, more than 40% of 18-30 year-olds were going to Royal Randwick for the first time.
The ATC’s marketing effort focuses more on appealing to “younger occasional social race-goers” rather than the serious punters who study a form guide for breakfast, lunch and tea.
The reason for this is that most racegoers attend the track an average of 1.2 times each year. This is different to many team sports, such as football – Bevan notes that he previously worked at Arsenal FC – where fans attend several matches a season.
Another difference is that the action is spread out. In a seven-hour race meet, there is only about 30-40 minutes of actual racing, which means racegoers need plenty of entertainment and activities trackside.
“What we're selling is an opportunity to step out of the everyday when you come to one of our race courses on a carnival day,” Bevan said.
“It's that collective of top-class racing, the great food and drink offer, the style and the fashion aspects coming together.”
More than just a race
The different pillars of a race meet guest experience - whether it’s music, food, drink, entertainment or fashion, provides huge opportunities for brands to integrate and interact with punters.
“We're starting to get better at not only allowing those sponsors to activate where there's a venue, but providing these brands with real connections with people through authentic engaging digital content. So, they're able to engage with the audience - the affluent audience - both off and on the track,” Bevan said.
“Clearly, you've got supplier relationships within the venue as well. It’s partly brand but also what people are doing which would attract your drinks partners. We've got Moët & Chandon. Heineken are in the mix, soft drink partners and then you've got world-class hospitality here.”
Colgate is also involved by sponsoring the Colgate Optic Whites States Day, a meet where a handful of quirky, eclectic local bands perform in between races.
Kia is another brand that has come on board with the race, with the rights around Rosehill Gardens, Coventry Park and Warwick Farm.
At the Everest, the ATC has a big promotion around its $600,000 slot holder horse. The On Top of the World competition, a data capture exercise, allows one lucky punter the chance for a genuine owner's experience for the day.
“We've got the bells and whistles - flying them in on a helicopter and then they'll stay at the Star in a suite. They'll have fantastic hospitality here but when the race is going on, if the ATC horse wins the race, then that prize-winner will walk away with $50,000.”
The winner may not have their name emblazoned on the sails of the Opera House, but AdNews doubts they will be too bothered or any less entertained.
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