And they're off: Victoria Pendleton and AP McCoy spearhead Cheltenham Festival promotions

Former Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton and legendary champion jockey AP McCoy have fronted two different types of promotions for rival bookies, Betfair and William Hill.

Victoria Pendleton: Competing in the Foxhunter Chase event at Cheltenham
Victoria Pendleton: Competing in the Foxhunter Chase event at Cheltenham

Pendleton originally accepted Betfair’s Switching Saddles challenge 12 months ago. Having sat on a horse for reportedly the first time in February 2015, the former Olympian has trained hard and secured permission to compete in the Foxhunter Chase event later this week.

Reports suggest that Betfair paid Pendleton £200,000 for signing up to the challenge and the betting company has also splashed out on trainers, horses and PR agency Pitch, which came up with the 'Switching Saddles' idea.

As part of PR efforts, Betfair launched an advert charting Pendleton’s journey and has been encouraging fans to use the hashtag #GoodLuckVP throughout the festival. 

So far the #SwitchingSaddles campaign has dominated media coverage. Between 6 March 2015 and 14 March, 733 pieces of coverage were recorded across print, online and broadcast media, Pitch told PRWeek. While the majority of coverage has been positive, there remains a risk that any injury to Pendleton could turn the promotion into a PR disaster.

In contrast, William Hill has played it safer with a tongue-in-cheek approach to promotional activities.

Claiming a world’s first, William Hill commissioned fashion designer Emma Sandham-King to create a custom-made Harris Tweed suit for veteran racehorse Morestead, which it modelled together with champion jockey AP McCoy.

The bookmaker has also been promoting the hashtag #Cheltenhamready and its moneyback promotions are being marketed prominently across social media in order to drum up business.

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