Stop shooting down the horses

Your piece on sponsorship in horseracing (MW November 13) incorrectly implies that the horseracing industry is falling short in attracting sponsorship support. The article is alarmist and misguided and makes assumptions which are far wide of the mark.

It was indeed unfortunate that the announcements of Martell’s withdrawal from the Grand National after the 2004 race and Attheraces’ ending of its association with Sandown Park occurred in the same week. They were totally unrelated and in no way support the view that horseracing is unable to attract major sponsorship investment.

It should be remembered that the deal with Martell, originally owned by Seagram Distillers, was part of a 20-year commitment which began in 1984. That is a remarkable length of time to sponsor of any event and it has been acknowledged as one of the most effective sporting sponsorship partnerships of all time. Aintree had anticipated that the contract may not be renewed and plans are well advanced for the conclusion of a new sponsorship deal for what has become one of the hottest properties in sport.

The Attheraces negotiations were quite different: a long-term arrangement had never been anticipated. The company’s contribution over the past two years has been absolutely invaluable to the industry.

The article also – incorrectly – links the future disbanding of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the privatisation of the Tote with the need for sponsorship income. These issues are unrelated and to link them shows a misunderstanding of the infrastructure of the industry.

The fact is that sponsorship in racing is buoyant – with a total contribution of over £18m, it represents almost a fifth of the prize money in UK racing. The organisations concerned with sponsorship within racing, linked to individual racecourse management teams, are between them in a strong position to sell the value of racing as a sponsorship medium.

BHB marketing director Chris John is extremely purposeful in his intent to attract more blue-chip companies to the sport, and those of us involved are confident that this will be achieved.

I have no doubt that the extraordinary media advantages horseracing can offer sponsors will continue to enable the sport to attract new investors. While it is true that racing is in limbo pending findings by the Office of Fair Trading, it is also true that many organisations, big and small, look upon racing, with its unique hospitality opportunities, as a highly effective marketing tool.

Nigel Payne

Chief executive

Horseracing Sponsors Association

Borehamwood

Herts

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