Profile: Scott Bowers, group director of communications, The Jockey Club

The Jockey Club's group director of communications tells Cathy Wallace why raising the profile of racing will attract big brands.

Scott Bowers
Scott Bowers

How old you would imagine a person who has headed a division of a top global PR agency, then taken the top comms job for a major sporting body, to be? A seasoned pro of 38, maybe? Guess again. Scott Bowers is 28.

Bowers' tender age would explain his remarkably fresh-faced appearance, even on this hottest of May days.

It may also explain his relentless enthusiasm for his new role as group director of comms for The Jockey Club, emphasised by the odd slamming of hands on the table as he makes a point. But then again, this enthusiasm could simply be characteristic of Bowers himself, not a by-product of age.

Just weeks into his new role, the former joint head of sport at Weber Shandwick is getting to grips with the task at hand. 'My first day happened to coincide with the (Group 1 flat races) 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas,' he smiles. 'Not a bad way to start.'

Fiona McLachlan, head of sport at Weber Shandwick, says Bowers is certain to have hit the ground running: 'His understanding of, and passion for, sport is second to none. It doesn't matter what the sport is - now he is at The Jockey Club, he will be an expert on racing already.'

Bowers certainly has all the key facts to hand: 'Racing is the second-best attended sport in the UK after football. Each year, six million people go racing. It's also the second-largest employer of any sport in the UK and the second-largest contributor, of any sport, to the UK economy.'

The challenge for Bowers and The Jockey Club is to communicate the breadth, scope and heritage of racing, and to encourage more people to try it out. 'Racing is not a one-city sport,' Bowers points out. 'Some major events are successful because they happen in one place and everyone focuses on it - the Grand National, for example. But there are lots of local stories in racing, it is at the heart of many rural and urban communities.'

Founded in 1750, The Jockey Club runs 14 UK racecourses including Aintree, Cheltenham and Epsom, owns and manages properties such as the training grounds at Newmarket and Lambourn, and in 2008 was asked by the Government to take over the National Stud. All profits are re-invested back into racing. So far, so good, but as Bowers says: 'A lot of people don't see racing as a sport, they see it as something to have a flutter on and a great day out. We need to position the sport as an anchor for both of these things.' He points to ambassadors such as jockeys AP McCoy and Frankie Dettori, as well as the horses themselves, as valuable collateral in this mission. 'We need to make the horses famous. Kauto Star vs Denman in the Gold Cup was a great example of this and there was a lot of coverage of that clash outside the racing pages. And in the end, Imperial Commander won that race. That outcome is a sign of a fantastic sport.'

Bowers is confident that if the profile of racing as a sport grows, big brand interest will follow. Key race meetings such as the Epsom Derby and the Grand National are already sponsored, by Investec and John Smiths respectively. 'We are looking at ways we can ensure the sport is more attractive to a diverse range of commercial partners,' he says 'Racing is "the sport of kings". Not many sports have its heritage and tradition - but it is important we present that in a contemporary way.' To this end, The Jockey Club is using its portfolio of racecourses to appeal to a wider audience and many race meetings now feature performances from bands such as Madness, JLS, Razorlight or Simply Red. 'We have an opportunity to market to these people coming through the gates, so as many as possible will come back.'

Bowers' passion for sport in all its forms is palpable. Born in Coventry, he supports the Sky Blues football team and played rugby for the city as well as under-19s cricket for Warwickshire and Glamorgan. 'I was good for my age, but I was never going to be Ian Bell or Lawrence Dallaglio,' he says.

Instead he turned his talents to PR, joining MS&L's corporate practice where he worked on clients such as Philips, General Motors and the De Beers group. He was then headhunted to join Weber Shandwick, where he and McLachlan set up the sports division.

'It was tough to leave Weber Shandwick,' he admits. 'I was invested in the division.' Had he stayed at the agency, he would still be working on the England 2018 bid, which must have made his decision to join The Jockey Club even harder.

But one senses he is used to making the right decisions. Much is made in sport of 'the winning attitude' and Bowers personifies this, his relentless positivity and enthusiasm leaps out at you. It comes as no surprise when he admits he backed the winning and second-placed horses in the Grand National. He claims he is 'no tipster', but you wouldn't bet against him.

 

Scott Bowers' turning points

- What was your biggest career break?

Helping Russia win its first Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games gave me the opportunity to launch Weber Shandwick's sports practice at the age of 26. The Olympic bid was incredible - travelling the world, working with stars like Maria Sharapova and writing materials for President Vladimir Putin. Suggesting he skied worked well too. This paved the way to win some of the top clients in sport, from the England 2018 FIFA World Cup bid and London Wasps to MasterCard and the World Series of Boxing.

- Did you have a notable mentor?

I have been privileged to learn from some fantastic people and I hope they know who they are, but my greatest mentor has been Jon Tibbs. He helped Beijing and Sochi win their bids as the world's foremost Olympic consultant, having headed sport at Bell Pottinger and Hill & Knowlton. In four years working together, we would speak several times daily and I continue to benefit from his experience, passion and pragmatism.

- What advice would you give to anyone climbing the career ladder?

Be passionate about what you do, put yourself forward, learn from everything, bring fresh ideas, embrace teamwork, earn trust, do not settle for 'okay' and never give up.

 

CV

2010 Group director of communications, The Jockey Club

2008 Joint head of sport, Weber Shandwick

2007 Associate director, Weber Shandwick

2006 Account director, Weber Shandwick

2004 Account executive, MS&L

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