Horse Racing Ireland introduce WhatsApp selling in time for the Irish Champions Festival

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has activated WhatsApp as a platform for conversational selling as it continues a targeted campaign aimed at engaging 18 to 34-year-olds.

HRI has  become the first sporting body in Ireland to trial conversational selling which sees HRI’s ticketing system integrated with the Whatsapp platform. The channel will be developed as a platform for customer engagement, promotions and sales and has been activated just ahead of the Irish Champions Festival, which took place across Leopardstown and The Curragh racecourses on the 9th and 10th September.

On the back of 2021 Red C Research, which identified a strong appetite among 18-34-year-olds to attend horse racing events, HRI launched its ‘Proper Day Out’ campaign in June 2022 led by an advertising campaign, comprised of BVOD (Broadcaster Video on Demand) and targeted TV spots around programmes, such as Love Island and the GAA Finals, which have high viewership amongst that key cohort.  

The campaign was also supported by digital and social media and a year-long partnership with Ladbible. In 2023, the marketing campaign has been extended to include digital audio and OOH at large concerts and events.

The latest Red C Research commissioned by HRI indicates that 58% of 18-34-year-olds are interested in attending a future race meeting and 65% are interested in receiving information on horse racing events. Cost of living concerns are driving a 6% decline in consumer intent to attend live sports events in 2023 but 32% of the 18-34 cohort expect to increase spend on entertainment in the coming months which is 6% higher than the all adult average.

ALSD International 2023 will take place at Manchester City Football Club’s Etihad Stadium, October 9-10. Optimising revenue through New Builds, Renovations & Service Expansions is the key focus of this industry-leading event, with architecture & design, fan experience, hospitality, premium sales & service, sustainability and technology taking centre stage. Paul Dermody, an Advisory Board member, is one of the 300+ that will be in attendance.

Paul Dermody, CEO of HRI Racecourses and HRI Director of Commercial & Marketing, said: 

It is pleasing to see that the work we have been doing to broaden the appeal of horse racing among 18-34 year olds is driving strong positive consumer sentiment. The Proper Day Out campaign will continue to position horse racing events as fun days out for all ages but particularly the 18-34s who have a strong intent to increase spend on entertainment. With 27% of adults intending to attend more horse racing events this year there are real positives for horse racing to build on in what is a very challenging time for consumers as discretionary spend is squeezed.

The Irish Champions Festival took place across Leopardstown and The Curragh racecourses on the 9th and 10th September

Dermody continued:

There have been strong attendances already this year at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February, which had a 40% increase in attendance on 2022 (34,591 vs 25,210) and this trend continued through to the Galway Races Festival, which had an increase of 5% on 2022’s attendance. We know anecdotally that these figures are being bolstered by increased attendances from 18-34-year-olds.

The Irish Champions Festival is the jewel of the flat season and another attractive sporting occasion that is accessible to younger consumers.

Conversational selling is an exciting, innovative new avenue for us to develop that relationship and better understand the needs of this experience focused consumer. WhatsApp has 99% penetration of the Irish market and it is an established communication channel for 18-34 year olds.  

The recent poll of over 1,000 people, conducted by Red C between the 9-15th February 2023, charts the adult population’s attitudes to horse racing and intent to attend sport events this year. 38% of sports people stated they are interested in Horse Racing which puts it on a par with Hurling (38%) and amongst the top five sports of interest alongside Rugby (57%), Soccer (49%) and Gaelic Football (41%).

HRI collaborated with Irish e-commerce company Cloda on selling tickets via WhatsApp.

First-class hospitality

Sports Venue Business CEO & ALSD International Executive Director, Katie McIntyre, and husband Noel, were delighted to attend Day 1 of the Irish Champions Festival as guests of Paul Dermody.

The day’s highlights included the inaugural Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes, catching up with Aviva Stadium’s Martin Murphy and Levy Ireland’s Leah Gunne, as well as meeting Horse Racing Ireland’s Debbie Mangan, Jackie Fitzsimons, Vicki Donlon, and of course the main man himself, Paul Dermody.

The day also featured high-level hospitality in the Legacy Lounge and was topped off by Frankie Detorri’s last ever ride at an Irish racecourse.

Huge thanks also to Tim Husbands, CEO of Leopardstown, and all the team at the racecourse.

Sports Venue Business organises and delivers ALSD International – the leading event and 365 community for the Premium Seat & Hospitality sector – on behalf of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD).

ALSD International 2023 is taking place at Etihad Stadium this October, with venue tours complimenting the high-level conference, exhibition and networking events. This year’s edition will feature the inaugural Tech Symposium and a Fan Experience breakout being delivered by IIFX.

#ALSDInternational – Europe’s leading event for the Premium Seat & Sports Hospitality sector

#ALSD – Leading the Premium Seat sector for the last 30 years

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