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Getting ready for the return of racegoers

Preparing for when we can welcome patrons back to Irish racecourses is a top priority of the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) and there are many elements involved in doing so safely when the time is right.

We will explore this in more detail in this column as it becomes clear what it involves. However, it is widely understood that this will be a gradual reopening to patrons, with priority given to owners.

In the meantime racecourse managers and marketing personnel are working diligently behind the scenes to come up with new and exciting initiatives to welcome back loyal racegoers and attract newcomers to our sport.

The recent welcome coverage on national television for the sport has certainly piqued a great interest in racing, with a recent survey indicating that many people are likely to go racing as soon as it opens again, and go more often.

AIR welcomes the racecourse marketing supports offered by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to the racecourse members. Support lead Aileen Goatley works with individual racecourses to evaluate their marketing and commercial needs, maximise attendances and increase overall interest in racing. AIR members engage to varying degrees as required when planning joint campaigns, media relations, promotional partnerships and tactical approaches to target distinct market segments.

Marketing forum

The quarterly marketing forum for racecourses is a recent and most welcome initiative from HRI. This is where representatives from all AIR member tracks are invited to attend a marketing meeting – held virtually this time – jam-packed with interesting research analysis, trends and insights. It also offers participants the opportunity to share case studies and experiences, ask questions and learn from one another in the best interest of promoting racing at their individual racecourses and collectively as a sector.

At the most recent forum, interesting examples of ‘outside the box’ thinking that worked for various racecourses in the last year were explored.

From Fairyhouse’s Easter Festival Bake Off to the successful Lockdown Heroes campaign rolled out by Naas Racecourse, a wide range of colourful and innovative concepts and themes were discussed. Such campaigns were designed to keep racing enthusiasts and newcomers entertained, engaged and excited about going racing soon.


For the purists amongst us, Galway’s Phone a Friend campaign was a real winner. It offered the public a chance to nominate someone they loved to get a call from their favourite racing celebrities and to simply have a chat, ask the questions they always wanted to and just get to know the person behind all the racing bravado.

As we collectively pined for The Punchestown Festival this past week, it’s good to know that there are plenty of reasons to look forward to going racing again, with major plans in place for marketing racing and individual racecourses once restrictions allow it. We look forward to seeing crowds back in the stands at Irish racecourses once again.

By Leo Powell

Irish Field

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