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The Trials of top flight event sponsorship

PUBLISHED: 11:21 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 12:01 15 May 2013

Fidelity Blenheim Horse Trials

Fidelity Blenheim Horse Trials

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Why should a business be an event sponsor? Mandy Hervieu, Event Director at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials tells Business and Professional Life

In a difficult economic climate, where opportunities to promote a business have grown like topsy, while marketing budgets are tightened – why is it still worthwhile being an event sponsor?

Mandy Hervieu is in the best position to understand the value of sponsorship, having worked for Petplan before becoming Event Director at Blenheim Horse Trials in 2005, of which Petplan was title sponsor.

“Sponsors support Blenheim for different reasons. Our headline sponsor, Fidelity, bring clients for a fabulous day out and to say thank you. They invite speakers and make the day memorable, alongside raising their profile within a target group they consider worthwhile. For other sponsors it’s about sales on the day, like Classic Collection, which sponsors one of our demonstrations. They also have a stand in the shopping village so those who like their clothing worn by riders in the demonstrations can go and buy it. Ariat sell quality footwear for the riding fraternity. Based in Faringdon, they showcase their full range of products on their exhibition stand, entertaining customers at the same time.”

Many events are focused very much on a demographic. For instance motor racing attracts a larger proportion of men than women. Eventing is unusual in that men and woman compete equally, making it open for all the family.

“At Blenheim, I am determined our sponsors get a proper return on their investment so I work with them before they commit themselves,” explains Mandy. “When I was at Pet Plan, sponsorship was all about retention of customers and gaining new ones, and it worked. Selling insurance is always difficult, people don’t want it but know it’s sensible to have it. When you talk to people about something they need but don’t want to pay for, it’s better to do it in a conducive environment such as Blenheim Horse Trials, while time giving them a memorable day out.

However, no-one can afford to write a blank cheque. “We put packages together that work for sponsors, giving them more than they put in,” added Mandy.

Andrew King is a partner of Richardsons Chartered Accountants, which has sponsored the Trials for over ten years.

“From a business point of view it’s about attracting new clients, and we have found a great marketplace in Blenheim to do that. We are a local business and carefully select what we support. However, it’s also putting something back into a community where our clients participate, whether a local agricultural show or an equestrian event.”

Blenheim Horse Trials is run by the governing body of the sport and isn’t held to make a big profit.

“We are running a three-day top level qualifying event with 160-180 competitors,” said Mandy. “Sponsorship is required to make the event better and improve facilities, and part of the reason Blenheim takes place is to make eventing more publically accessible, so the support of commercial organisations involved in the sport should benefit them in the long run in terms of increased sales.”

Sometimes a sponsor doesn’t have anything to do with the world of eventing, but simply recognises Blenheim as an opportunity to entertain. One such is Karcher. “For them, it’s simply about having a good day out, a good laugh with customers and getting to know them better,” explains Mandy.

Some sponsors, such as Ariat, stay with Blenheim for years. Others sponsor for one or two years to test their market. “We have sponsors who’ve come, gone and returned. Sponsorship is a ‘nice to do’ and sometimes investment return measurement is hard which is why I know their objectives and set out a way of evaluation,” adds Mandy.

The 2013 Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is being held 12-15 September.

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