In July 2019, Championship Horse Racing (CHR) will be looking to disrupt the sport when it debuts “The Series” in Great Britain. “The Series” will present flat racing, as it is known in the UK, in a team-based, season-like format which CHR feels will modernize the sport and breathe new energy into it on a global level.
Great Britain’s history of racing dates back centuries, and flat racing continues to be one of the country’s largest spectator sports. Prestigious international meets like Royal Ascot have continued growing their global appeal recently, and specifically with an American audience. In November, NBC Sports Group announced a six-year contract extension with Ascot Racecourse, granting the company United States media rights until 2025 and expanding coverage of Royal Ascot.
CHR respects the status and appeal of meets like Royal Ascot, but wants to distance itself from some of the perceptions that horse racing sometimes has among people inside and outside the sport. They do not want “The Series” to bring a feel that horse racing is only for the elite, that it is solely focused on gambling, or that the sport is too complicated for fans to follow.
‘The Series’ Format
“The Series” will feature 12 teams, each having a roster of 30 horses conditioned under one or more trainers. Each team will also have four dedicated jockeys. The horses will compete in eight fixtures or six races each, taking place on consecutive Thursday evenings from July to September. Each race will include 12 runners representing each of the 12 teams.
CHR announced its eight scheduled venues for “The Series,” which includes top racecourses in England, Ireland and Scotland. The branded teams will compete in 48 races with more than £100k of prize money per race.
Most horses racing around the globe fall into the handicap category, meaning their talent is not on the level of Graded Stakes or Group class. “The Series” races will all be handicaps to even out the competition, and giving owners a chance to earn more prize money with their horses in relation to those with horses competing at the Graded Stakes and/or Group level.
A points system similar to Formula 1 will be utilized to determine prize money winners on individual racing days, as well as “The Series” championships at the end of the season. Various prizes will be awarded to racing teams, as well as jockeys.
Sponsorship and Fan Engagement
With this new format, CHR believes “The Series” will provide sponsorship opportunities unlike others currently available in horse racing. The company’s goal is to have each racing team sponsored and become international brands. They are also seeking a title sponsor for “The Series.”
“We are looking at a range of sponsors across key categories such as automotive, airline, telco, as well as key brands from within racing,” said Oli Harris, CMO for CHR. “Sponsorships and racing teams will all be focused on enhancing the fan experience during ‘The Series.’”
Team sponsorships will bring opportunities to create fanfare at each event. “Our aim is to make sure that the fans have the best possible opportunities to benefit from our sponsors. The aim is to engage fans and brands on and off the racecourse,” Harris added.
The teams will have dedicated areas for their horses, along with equipment and branded apparel worn by the jockeys, trainers, and other stable staffers. “Each team will have its own space on the infield where they can entertain fans and run activations. I feel it’s a chance for sponsors to interact with their audience like never before,” Harris said.
Sponsors will capitalize not only at the racing venues, but also through media coverage expected during “The Series.” Harris explained, “We are going to be bringing an unparalleled amount of media coverage for the sport, which we are very excited about. This will allow us and our sponsors the opportunity to tell stories and produce engaging content over a two-month period, using one of the world’s most popular sports as a medium. It’s a sport in which women and men can compete as equals, and one that employs tens of thousands of people.”
Since current negotiations are underway, Harris was unable to provide specifics around the costs of sponsoring a racing team. New York-based Leverage Agency is working with CHR on sponsorship sales and marketing advisory.
Fan Engagement and Gauging Success
Increasing fan engagement and reaching new fans is CHR’s primary objective during the first year of “The Series.” In addition to the racing teams and sponsors increasing fanfare themselves, CHR will utilize technology, including a mobile application dedicated to “The Series.”
“We are hoping our app will be the facilitator of genuine interaction between teams and their fans. Our #WeWinYouWin system rewards fans when their team does well,” Harris said.
“Rewards and benefits will be redeemed via the app. We also want the app to be a navigation tool for the events themselves. We will have a lot of different things going on alongside the action from the track and we want to help fans find their way around in a more intuitive way,” he added.
As for gauging success and building the future of “The Series,” CHR will analyze feedback from fans along with overall acceptance rates in its markets.
Harris said, “We will judge our success by how people relate to the format of the competition and listen to their feedback. We are totally customer- and market-orientated in our approach, and we genuinely want to shape a series of events that the fans feel a part of.
“Our aim is to eventually take the competition to other parts of the world, but we must first make sure we give our audience a great show in year one.”