Why you should sponsor an equestrian event and how to do it

In part two of our series about effective marketing we take a look at sponsoring equestrian events. Equestrianism is one of the most exciting, fast growing sports in the world – with different disciplines to suit all interest, budgets and marketing goals.

Sponsoring an event offers myriad benefits to your business – from boosting your brand to schmoozing your clients.

What is event sponsorship?

An event sponsorship is where a business provides money or services, in exchange for visibility, networking opportunities and brand awareness. For example, Andrews Bowen – who installs riding surfaces – sponsors events by offering their services for free, or at a discounted price, in return for visibility. While other non-equestrian brands, such as Longines, pay money to have their name attached to prestigious events, including the Global Champions Tour and the FEI World Cup Jumping.

Why sponsor an event?

Unlike other forms of advertising, which can be intrusive, event sponsorship allows consumers and businesses to connect in a more organic way, creating meaningful, real-time engagement.

According to a study on experiential marketing, 72% of consumers view brands that provide quality event experiences positively, while 74% admit engaging with branded events makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted.

“Sponsoring an event is quite different from standard marketing opportunities, it’s about thinking outside the box,” says Simon Gaskin, sponsorship and marketing manager at Hickstead.

As well as providing a unique approach to your marketing, sponsoring an event offers great opportunities for you to build rapport with your existing clients. What better way to wine and dine guests, than with ring-side seats to world-class sport?

Many events provide personalised money-can’t-buy experiences, such as course walks with top riders, lunches with guest speakers, and exclusive access behind the scenes. Then there is the glamour of the gear, and the beauty of the equine athletes. Equestrian events offer clients an experience they won’t forget.

“Equestrian sport is aspirational, but it appeals to a wide demographic, because it has men and woman, young and old competing against each other on a level playing field,” says Simon. “Plus you have the added interest of the horses – it’s not just about the riders, the real stars are often the equines. There aren’t many other sports which offer that.”

Have clear goals

Before taking the plunge into sponsorship, it’s a good idea to have clear goals about what you want achieve. Is it to increase sales, reach a new audience, or do you want to strengthen relationships with your current clients? Once you have decided the purpose of your new partnership, you can then set about finding the right event and the type of sponsorship to invest in.

Type of events

From Pony Club to professional, and eventing to endurance, there are equestrian competitions to suit all budgets and all marketing goals. Prices vary according to the size of the event and the popularity of the sport. For example, Horse Events offer the opportunity to sponsor a cross-country fence at a grassroots event for £600, while packages at the world-famous Hickstead showground start at £1,500.

It pays to do your research before you sign on the dotted line. If you want to target pony mad teens it’s probably not a good idea to sponsor a polo game, while clients with a prestigious brand might not be thrilled to spend the day in a muddy field watching a load of amateur riders!

You also want to make sure the event fits with your core values. The luxury brand Longines sponsors a range of equestrian sports at the highest level, because they “match its philosophy perfectly”.

“Over the years, the brand has created stable, lasting relations with the equestrian world, something that is consistent with its history and that reflects the brand’s values of tradition, elegance and performance,” says Longines’ vice president of marketing, Matthieu Baumgartner.

Different types of sponsorship

Every event will offer different sponsorships packages, but these are the most common options. Again, prices depend on the venue, the level of competition and the amount of exposure you receive.

  • Title sponsorship of a show/series/tournament/class
  • Branded hospitality, where you can entertain current clients, or generate new leads
  • Branded showjumps/cross-country fences
  • Advertising boards
  • Grandstand/arena sponsorship
  • Exhibition space where you can advertise and promote your business/services
  • Advertising space on video screens
  • Balcony advertising
  • Branded banners, flags, rugs, rosettes

There are so many event sponsorship options; it just takes a little bit of money and a lot of imagination to create a unique marketing opportunity for your business.

In our next blog we will look at the next big step in sponsorship – buying a horse for a professional rider or starting your own syndicate. It’s an exciting, but expensive pursuit!

In the meantime, if you want more advice on your equestrian marketing please get in touch.

Image credit: Fédération Équestre Internationale, FEI/ Eric Knoll.