Royal Ascot is one of the UK’s most renowned race meetings, known as much for its extravagant hats and glamour as it is for horse racing.
Over the course of the five-day event, which this year takes place between 19 and 23 June, the racecourse welcomes more than 300,000 visitors and generates three-quarters of its annual income. It has 21 other race days throughout the year, but they attract just 300,000 visitors between them and a quarter of its overall revenue.
Therein lies the challenge. While Royal Ascot is undoubtedly the most prestigious event held at the racecourse, and the one by which it sets its standard, it only takes place a few days each year and tends to attract quite a niche audience. So the business has been steadily ramping up its offer by hosting a range of other events to widen its appeal to different customer groups.
But fighting for that share of purse is difficult, Ascot’s commercial director Juliet Slot tells Marketing Week, particularly as it’s not just other sports it has to compete with.
“Most sports are quite tribal. If you follow football you go and watch your football team. If you are into cricket you’ll want to go to the one-day internationals, the Test match or you’ll follow your local county team,” she explains.
We can always attract new customers but if you can retain your customers and keep them coming back year in, year out, it’s a big tick.
Juliet Slot, Ascot
“But people don’t follow race horses so we are a sport that sits more as an entertainment experience around sport rather than having a very strong tribal following of people that come to every race meeting. That means we need to work harder to encourage people to consider us.
“We want to be famous for more than Royal Ascot,” Slot asserts.
Expanding the Ascot experience
To attract a wider audience, Ascot is building other events around the racing. Race meetings lend themselves to forming part of a wider event because the racing element can last for just 20 minutes a day, which is why Ascot hosts themed experience days such as food and wine festivals, a beer festival, a fireworks night, a Christmas shopping village and family days.
“Racing is a whole day experience. At its heart are six or seven races per day and they don’t last more than two or three minutes…