Equestrian Sponsorship Reflections and Predictions

At the start of this year it’s true to say that none of us knew what 2020 had in store for us, personally or from a business standpoint.

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a new vocabulary; on a daily basis, we use words and phrases like ‘lockdown’, ‘self-isolate’, ‘social-distance’. In business we speak about ‘furlough’ ‘WFH’, ‘pivoting’ and ‘adapting’.

It’s true to say that the equestrian industry has certainly learned to adapt well in the past nine months. Whilst many equestrian events were inevitably cancelled, resourceful event centres, training venues and the main equestrian bodies worked hard to open competitions and put on events when they could, ensuring compliance with government guidelines and Covid-19 restrictions.

2020 Shows and Events

British Eventing were among the first to get amateur sport going again under government protocols following the first lockdown, working with event venues to manage competitors and their horses under new socially distancing measures.

For British Dressage, their summer season was decimated but they worked hard to continue to provide sponsors with additional benefits at a time when regional and national qualifiers were unable to go ahead.

The Winter Championships in August was the first major event that they were able deliver. Whilst spectators were unable to attend in person the event offered live stream viewing which resulted in over 55,000 views over the 7 days of competition.

British Showjumping’s National Championships should have taken place at Stoneleigh in August but the team managed to reschedule the event and hold it at Bolesworth with just six weeks’ notice, whilst Aintree Equestrian Centre was able to successfully deliver the British Showjumping Finals normally hosted at HOYS.

Businesses who had invested in event sponsorship may not have seen the format of returns they expected but most sponsorship partnerships are long-term and new opportunities arose such as the British Showjumping podcast as well as the opportunity to take advantage of digital assets and live streaming.

What will equestrian sponsorship look like in 2021?

Looking ahead to 2021, we are likely to have to continue adapting our business strategies and sponsorship will still remain a key marketing tool for forward-thinking businesses.

Sponsorship is about creating memorable experiences and meaningful relationships to generate business and acquire new customers.

Equestrian sponsorship can offer enormous value when compared with more traditional marketing in providing a substantial package of benefits to allow businesses to connect and be seen in front of their target customers.

Making Sponsorship Work for your Business

Event organisers, promoters and equestrian organisations firstly need to be aware of their sponsor’s objectives before planning a sponsorship package, which may include:

• Brand exposure and increased awareness
• Elevating brand reputation
• Customer data capture
• Lead generation
• Gaining media exposure
• Driving sales
• Educating a new audience

The more creative the offering, the more attractive the package will be.

Digital and Virtual Promotions

Until the UK returns to some semblance of normality and events can run in a more traditional format, physical trade stand space may be replaced with virtual shopping opportunities.

Online shopping villages, promoted throughout an event will be more common place. Advanced technology can offer bespoke virtual retail experiences providing retailers with dedicated store space to promote their products and make a truly personal experience for their customers.

With consumers spending more time online and a global online content consumption growth of almost 50%, sponsors can expect a shift in digital content as part of their sponsorship package.

Live streaming promotional opportunities surrounding events will offer added value by providing extensive brand exposure to a global audience.

Bespoke video advertisements and tailored digital content can deliver instant awareness and make impactful brand promotions via social media channels, live streaming and 3rd party websites.

Richard Burdett, Horse & Country TV’s Chief Creative Officer reported “We have seen an significant increase in subscribers and audience viewing this year adding over 100 hours of live streaming to our schedule and an influx of new opportunities for sponsors. This has allowed us to offer more benefits to our valued sponsors and advertisers, utilising our strong social media following and producing bespoke promotion content for each brand to a global audience”.

Sponsorship and The Seven Touch Points to Brand Engagement.

A basic marketing principle states that it takes seven ‘touch points’ before someone will connect to your brand or business. But with the rise of digital marketing and an abundance of ways that we can receive a message across all of our devices and platforms, this number may now be more like thirteen!

A well-planned sponsorship package can offer ALL seven touches and more in one package:

Digital advertising – print advertising – website content – logo placement – social media engagement – large scale branding on event – trade stand space at shows – live stream advertising – video content – podcast product placements – brand ambassador marketing – customer testimonials – e-newsletter coverage – editorial promotions – networking opportunities.

How to Get your Brand Noticed in 2021

British Showjumping offers both traditional title sponsorship opportunities as well as a Business Partnership approach which is tailor-made package for each business they work with.

Head of Communications at British Showjumping, Maria Haig, says, “The ‘Business Partnership’ concept was created over ten years ago as a way of being able to attract investors who wanted to take an integrated approach to their marketing strategy. We spend time discussing our partners business needs, target audience and objectives and then create a package that can best meet them across our assets that span social media, digital advertising, livestream, advertising and editorial content in our magazine. Also, we now of course have the National Training Centre to offer as an asset as well. In doing so we are able to reach an audience beyond that of just our membership making it a great proposition. From the sports perspective it has proved to be a runaway success as the funds raised are ringfenced and reinvested back into the sport supporting series such as the International Stairway which spans the County Shows and culminates at our National Championships.

Maggie Jackman, Sponsorship Manager at British Dressage states, “We are able to provide our sponsors with an array of sponsorship benefits through social media, our print magazine, digital advertising and e-newsletter content which all offer direct access to our members. We are planning to have trade stands at our Championships in 2021 but clearly this will depend on the situation at the time.

This year we have worked closely with our all of sponsors to ensure that they are meeting their marketing goals and adapting their package where necessary. Our sponsorship relationships are built over a period of time and we take a huge interest in each business to get to know the individual people so that we can respond to them as individuals.

The live stream of the National Convention was so well received, we were overwhelmed with the positive comments and how much people enjoyed it, the same applied to the Winter Championships.

We can learn from any situation and believe it or not there are positives from having had to adapt the way we did things this year”.

British Eventing

Olivia Szajna, Head of Marketing, Communications & Commercial at British Eventing expressed “We are proud to have been able to resume sport as quickly and safely as possible under our new protocols.Our sponsors are very loyal we have been able to support them with additional digital opportunities and live streamed tv coverage where possible.

We have used the opportunity to accelerate our planning of new initiatives and launch new competitions to provide a wide range of opportunities for both members and sponsors in 2021. We are proud to provide our sponsors with multiple opportunities to get in front of an extremely engaged and unique audience at British Eventing”.

Sponsorship Planning for 2021

Whilst we have all had to find ways to weather the storm, sponsorship benefits for businesses will increase in 2021 with more advantageous opportunities available through:

Virtual Events, Professional and Amateur Riders, Social Media Influencers and Vloggers, Event Sponsorship, Class Sponsorship, Podcasts, Championship Series Sponsorship, Live Streaming, Membership Partnerships, Competitor Team Sponsorship, Awards, Print and Digital Media, Horse Festivals and more.

For businesses of any size, this is the ideal time to start adding sponsorship to your marketing strategy and for seasoned sponsors use the opportunity to create a longer-term sponsorship package at favourable rates.

Equestrian sponsorship enables our industry and equestrian sport to progress. Sponsorship can provide you with direct access to your target audience to grow your brand quickly. It’s a way of supporting the equestrian industry, giving something back and showing that you care as a company.

If you would like help planning and activating your 2021 Sponsorship Portfolio let’s talk!

image: ©Lucy Hall Photography