Tuesday, May 28, 2024

18–34-year-olds are the driving force behind increased horse racing attendances | Wexford Weekly

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Increased attendances at Horse Racing events in the past year is being driven by 18–34-year-olds with the latest Red C Horse Racing Ireland Tracker revealing that 45% of this age group attended a horse racing meet in 2023 up from 40% the previous year…

Over the past couple of months this trend has continued with soaring attendance figures at some of the country’s favourite racing festivals – 62,000 attended Leopardstown at Christmas up 2.5%, while 30,093 race goers attended Fairyhouse at Easter, up 4%, and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Weekend drew a crowd of 36,000, up 4% on the previous year.  Attendances for Q1 2024 are up 3.9% compared to Q1 2023 from 157,188 to 163,418.

The Red C research reveals that 46% of 18–34-year-olds interested in attending future horse racing meetings up from 33% last year, and 38% are planning to attend more race meetings, an increase of 11%. While 30% of 18–34-year-olds declared an interest in horse racing up from 25% last year, three in ten considered themselves to be strong advocates for the sport.

Horse Racing Ireland’s success in appealing to younger audiences is also being borne out through its series of Student Race Days around the country.  In October last year, 6,000 local third level students attended Galway, last month Cork capped attendance at 4,000 students and earlier this month, Leopardstown Student Race Day capped attendees at 10,300.   3,000 students attended the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday attracted by the high-profile racing card and on-site entertainment, which included renowned Irish DJ Mark McCabe.

A Growing Sporting favourite:

The Red C Research shows that horse racing continues to grow its appeal amongst sports fans as 47% stated an interest in the sport up from 44% last year.  Horse racing (41%) now places as the fourth most popular sport in the country behind Rugby (61%), Soccer (51%) and Gaelic Football (44%) and marginally ahead of Hurling (40%). There is widespread appeal across all racing events with 64% of respondents interested in Festivals, 39% interested in Flat racing events and 51% interested in National Hunt, 41% are interested in Mixed Card race meetings.

Reaching 18-34’s:

As part of their strategy to engage the 18-34 demographic, HRI became the first sporting body in Ireland to launch WhatsApp as an innovative platform for conversational selling in 2023. To date 3,562 people have registered and with an average open rate of 93%, it is proving to be a very engaged audience for customer engagement, promotions, and sales.

Building on this success, HRI launched activated its first live Tik Tok campaign at this year’s Cheltenham festival. This involved a live stream from the gallops each morning hosted by Bernard Jackman and Fran Berry, interviewing jockeys, trainers and stable staff giving followers a behind the scenes look at the biggest week in the national hunt calendar. This partnership proved extremely popular, attracting new people to racing and educating them on the industry, with 1.9 million unique viewers and 3.6 million video views across the week. Launched in March 2022, HRI’S Tik Tok channel now has over 46,000 followers, over 60% of whom are between 18-34.

Speaking to Wexford Weekly on the success of attracting this cohort, Aileen Goatley, Head of Marketing at Horse Racing Ireland, said:

“We’re thrilled to see the continued growth in positive sentiment towards the sport amongst the 18-34 age group, it tells us that our targeted communications are resonating. We have seen the impact across multiple festivals over the past year where this younger audience are attending regularly and enjoying the full race day experience.  This is vital for us as ultimately; the long-term sustainability of the sport is secured by attracting younger fans and ensuring they have a positive engagement with the sport and the race day experience. This is a very engaged audience who want to know more about the sport and the work that goes on behind the scenes to deliver a race day so it gives us a great opportunity to tell the stories of the people in the industry which supports over 30,000 jobs and is worth over €2.46bn to the Irish economy.

“This has been a strategic imperative of ours over the last three years and it is great to see it delivering results as the number of strong advocates for the industry amongst 18-34 year olds increases from 25% to 30%. I’m extremely proud to say that one in every two sports fans are interested in horse racing and this is increasing steadily every year. This enables us to attract a broad spectrum of sponsors and corporate partners looking to engage with this younger audience, in turn allowing us to invest further into the future development of the sport.”

The Red C Horse Racing Ireland Tracker Research took place between 8th – 14th February 2024 with over 1,002 interviews conducted by Red C.

Wexford Weekly
Wexford Weekly

This article was published by a member of the Wexford Weekly team.

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