What the Kentucky Derby and Ultimate Fighting Championships Can Teach Us About Marketing

We announced the final four in the 7th Annual EN Blogger Contest, and now we are bringing you their second round submissions. The prompt: "Eventing has been approved for inclusion in the Olympics through 2024 under an altered format, but the sport still faces uphill battles both in the U.S. and abroad. What can we do to make eventing more appetizing, engaging and understandable to the mainstream public? Share your ideas in an interesting, funny, informative and creative way." Take it away, Amber!

It’s time to break out the champagne and horse-shaped balloons, equestrian sports have been approved for inclusion in the Olympic Games up until the year 2024! But with equestrian sports viewership at an all-time low (just search for “least popular Olympic sports”), what can we do to ensure its inclusion in years to come? How can we market ourselves to “outsiders” so the sport we all love doesn’t diminish into nothing? I believe we can start by looking at how others have successfully dealt with similar issues.

Case 1—The Kentucky Derby
Well known as the first race in the Triple Crown, this event attracts equestrian sport enthusiasts and clueless spectators alike. Trademarked by race-goers for its affinity for massive floppy hats, loudly printed dresses and mint juleps. Oh, and horses I guess.

So what is it about the Kentucky Derby that ushers in such large crowds? Is it the booze? (Because we can certainly fix that!) Perhaps the gambling? Is it the unique styling and long-standing traditions? What, if anything, can we borrow from this renowned event to facilitate the broadening of our sport?

Case 2—The Ultimate Fighting Championships
Wait! Don’t close out of your screen quite yet and hear me out. Nothing gets my dear, non-horsey husband quite as excited as a good UFC match up. As you may imagine, this sometimes leads me to know far more about a sport involving two sweaty men (or women) rolling around on a mat together and spitting than I would particularly care to. But I will tell you one thing: the UFC knows how to promote itself.

As entertaining as it is to think about Michael Jung and Lauren Kieffer, fists raised and brows furrowed, squaring off in front of thousands, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. Usually leading up to a big fight, the UFC will air commercials promoting the fight and the fighters themselves. They’ll include a little backstory on each fighter, some clips of previous fights, etc. How cool would it be to see something similar on your favorite eventers? More importantly, how exciting would it be to have your non-horsey friend or loved one half as excited for equestrian sports as you are?

Case 3—My Own Research
In thoroughness, I found and selected two horse sport un-enthusiasts, who have no understanding or interest in anything equestrian related, and sat them down to watch Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro’s Olympic Gold winning performance. Dressage was chosen due to its historically low viewer ratings (just check out the stands at Rio), and the fact that it’s about as exciting as watching paint dry to the untrained eye.

Their suggestions were as follows:
-Teach a horse to moonwalk
-Do dressage with drunk horses
-Combine jumping and dressage into one
-Play “Bad Day” when someone messes up

So if all else fails, all we need to do is teach our horses to moonwalk. Simple, right?