Campaigns: Sport - Racing week draws in new punters

Campaign: Go Racing For Free Week
Client: Racing for Change
PR team: In-house
Timescale: January-May 2010
Budget: £16,000

Horseracing in the UK has a loyal but ageing customer base. The Racing for Change project aims to broaden the appeal of the sport and the in-house PR team launched the UK's first ever free racing week in April.

Objectives

- To create a compelling reason for the wider public to trial horseracing

- To use the promotion as a means of publicising racing's strengths and to communicate that the sport is modernising

- To provide participating racecourses with customer data that can assist them in promoting their businesses

- To double attendances so first-time racegoers represent at least a quarter of new attendees.

Strategy and plan

Racing for Change's in-house team wanted to create a PR event that would attract widespread publicity in non-racing media. It wanted to encourage members of the public to trial the sport and communicate that it had modernised, was broadening its appeal and welcoming new customers.

The idea was first presented at a meeting for racecourses. When it became clear some courses would be willing to participate, Racing for Change chose a suitable week and began a programme of lobbying. Within the first month, eight courses had signed up and a ninth followed later.

The key selling point was that all applications for free tickets would have to be made online, providing courses with email addresses for future promotions. It was also decided to trial initiatives during the 'free week' as a way of creating further news hooks. An example was a trial to introduce 'decimal odds' to the betting ring (bookmakers currently bet in fractions).

A microsite was constructed in order to provide information, access to tickets, and data capture. A press release was distributed to national and regional media announcing the free racing week and interviews were set up with top jockeys in national newspapers and on regional radio stations.

Subsequent press releases were sent out highlighting the positive response levels and the first-ever trial of decimal odds. National TV and radio interviews were set up around the latter.

Each racecourse was encouraged to trial other initiatives aimed at explaining horseracing to novice racegoers. Once the week was over, Racing for Change released information summarising the official attendance figures and research results.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign achieved coverage in 240 media outlets, including all national newspapers, the BBC, Channel 4, Channel Five, Sky, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5, Heart, Magic and TalkSPORT. Sixty-six per cent of the editorial was in non-racing media.

Results

The free racing week attracted 40,000 additional racegoers. Sixty-three per cent of racegoers were either new to the sport or lapsed customers and 87 per cent said they would be highly likely or likely to go racing again. Over 27,000 people visited the microsite, with many more going to the racecourses' own websites.

SECOND OPINION

Holly Ward, MD, Euro RSCG London PR

As a would-be horse-racing fan this case study really appeals to me. I'm a firm believer in the power of a compelling idea that will naturally flow through a variety of news channels and I think the creation of Free Race Week is one such idea.

One of the key elements of this campaign was getting the racecourses on board and the suggestion of data capture was a clever way of doing this.

The use of a press release to launch and subsequent releases to generate news around some of the new ideas such as Decimal Odds is traditional and certainly distributed the news well.

However, while this approach clearly worked, I think the team could have generated more word of mouth through a low-cost social media campaign - a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, for example - and engagement with racing bloggers to encourage people who wouldn't consider racing as a fun activity.

The key component that is missing for me is a more strategic approach to the audiences they wanted to bring into racing. Horseracing is described as 'ageing', which suggests the team wanted to attract a younger audience. A social media campaign could have effectively reached this group.

Overall, the results have proved that this campaign worked well. Particularly impressive is the 40,000 additional racegoers and the 63 per cent of new or lapsed racegoers. I think that this is a campaign that will grow and grow over the years to come. Right, I'm off to the races.

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