• How HRI has used data to grow Irish racing

    By Max Dickman, Lead Consultant, Two Circles.

    Horse racing is a sport that captures the Irish public’s imagination. However, there remains a big opportunity to increase the sport’s footprint and grow the number of people who experience racing across the country - building on the foundations of its long and celebrated history.

    From March to September last year, HRI worked with Two Circles on a pilot project. We are a data-driven sports marketing agency, headquartered in London that helps sports organisations build better relationships with their audiences and partners.

    Two Circles and HRI set out specific goals for this project, these were to harness the power of data to better understand who HRI’s customers are; to build insight-led marketing strategies that grew the number of advance, and consequently total, tickets sold; and to create a dialogue with customers to improve their raceday experience and, as a direct result, get customers coming back more. One year on, we’re happy to share the early results and some new insights into racing in Ireland.


    1) Raceday Experience

    A better understanding of what customers like, dislike and value is helping improve the raceday experience – and data shows racing continues to be one of the best sporting experiences in the UK and Ireland.

    Surveying customers attending racedays in 2018 at Ballinrobe (McHale Day), The Curragh (The Irish Derby and Longines Irish Champions weekends) and Leopardstown (Longines Irish Champions Weekend), we started diagnosing what was great and what needs improving. 

    From “game-changer” factors (such as atmosphere and view) to “money-makers” (food, drink, betting) and “game-breakers” (toilets, queues), we recommended that HRI apply the insight to optimise customer experience in 2019. But what was fantastic to see already is the advocacy of the Irish racing customers, with Net Promoter Scores (NPS)* as high as +64, compared to a UK sports industry benchmark of +50.

    2) Returning Racegoers

    Organisations thrive when their customers come back again and again. Knowing who is coming back and why is fundamental to Irish racing’s growth, and retention-focused marketing efforts have yielded good early results.

    A focus for 2018 was unlocking the potential of “known” databases; customers that have previously transacted with a racecourse, who are both hot prospects to return and can be communicated with for little-to-no cost. 

    For Longines Irish Champions Weekend, part of the marketing strategy focused on addressing this audience via email and social media. In so doing, we drove an increase in the number of advance ticket purchasers and increased the 2017/18 retention number by 4% compared to 2016/17. Increasing retention will be a key objective for the growth of LICW in 2019.

     3) Growing Relationships

    More advance ticket sales and more data-capture activities create more contactable customer records. Our focus on this in 2018 has led to bigger databases and therefore a better platform to communicate with racing customers going forward.

    Customers signing up to hear from an organisation is a value exchange. A pure love of – and desire to hear from – a racecourse can be supplemented by offers of exclusive content, early bird ticket access, and competition prizes. 

    More racing customers than ever signed up to hear from the LICW, with database growth of 143% across the 2018 season. This enabled us to grow engagement with these Irish racing fans, to both keep them informed of news and offers, but also execute more targeted marketing communications that drove ticket sales. 

    Outside of LICW, there was also success in Ballinrobe. By growing the marketable database – in addition to data-driven initiatives that increased email engagement with Ballinrobe’s customers and improved the impact of paid marketing decisions – the course posted a total attendance increase of 19% year-on-year at the 2018 McHale Day.

    We have loved working with HRI, Ballinrobe, The Curragh and Leopardstown, and are excited to see how Irish racing will grow in 2019.


    *Net Promoter Scores measure the willingness of customers or fans to recommend an organisation’s products, services or events to others