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Karl Cook - Fixing horse shows

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    #21
    Originally posted by vxf111 View Post
    I think he's overlooking a big reality. Companies like Coca-Cola sponsor the NFL not because they want the players and their family to buy Coke but because there's a huge, huge national spectating audience. That is who Coca-Cola is targeting. We don't have the same attention. Until hunter/jumper shows are on ESPN and people are chatting around the cooler about their Fantasy Pony Hunter league, there's no way we're going to attract the big money sponsors.
    While I disagree that the jumpers are boring (hunters, sure), I don't disagree that the quality of sponsors is dependent upon to the number of national participants. There used to be televised grand prix events and NBC showed an event or two now and again (do they still?), but the number of people who know what's going in the program is shrinking. Fewer people = less coverage. Why are the big sports so popular? Because people play them. People get football because they've played football. Or tennis. Or basketball. Or poker. Fewer and fewer people can say the same about competitive show jumping.

    Years ago show jumping used to garner column inches in big publications. People cared about who won what. Not anymore. The sport has not only priced out the amateur rider, it's priced out people who dabble enough to want to follow it for life. The diminished interest is 100% self-inflicted.

    My husband and I attended the 2018 WEG live and watched the show jumping from beginning to end. The final was so thrilling that my husband, who does not follow the sport, was on his feet screaming for our team. At the end he turned and said, this beats the h*ll out of football!
    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." -Henry Ford

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      #22
      Originally posted by vxf111 View Post


      If there is a sportscaster that can make amateur hunters at the 3' and lower level exciting in the play by play, I'd like to meet that person

      Other than very big grand prix and a few other select events, most equestrian disciplines are really just not that exciting. They're largely subjective, they're not team oriented, they're not geographic (root for the home team etc.), and most people just aren't in to them. I mean, sometimes in the middle of a training level dressage test *I* wanted to stop experiencing it from boredom and I was the one riding it

      Most shows are 90% lower level people doing basic stuff and 10% what anyone might even passably characterize as exciting.

      I love the sport but even we don't really watch it ourselves. We watch our friends and barmates, and we watch the BIG STUFF. But raise your hand if you ever went for the day to watch a local schooling show where you knew no one JUST for the ENTERTAINMENT factor (Not because you were scoping out the grounds or helping a friend or trainer shopping etc. but because you wanted to watch strangers chip in to 2'6 for hours).
      Yes but this is true for all sports. The national level events are televised and draw big spectators. There's not a big spectator draw for 7 year old youth soccer, either.
      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

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        #23
        Originally posted by poltroon View Post

        Yes but this is true for all sports. The national level events are televised and draw big spectators. There's not a big spectator draw for 7 year old youth soccer, either.
        True. But we also don’t run youth soccer at the same competition as professional level. In equestrian we do. Which is part of why I think his idea is unrealistic
        ~Veronica
        "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
        http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

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          #24
          Drawing spectators from the general public simply won't happen. Even the Western riding shows have no real audience in the seats anymore - most people who attend those shows are competitors or vendors - and have been in overall attendance decline over the last twenty years, as horses are not part of the mainstream culture even in Cowboy Country. We're now living in an Attention-economy based world where people aren't going to go out of their way to see or do something, especially if it has no apparent benefit for them to partake in. Horse Racing is attached to gambling, is run out of centralized urban locations, and they stream stuff for those who care to watch, so they got their side of things covered and in order.

          Like their English/European-oriented counterparts, Western riding sponsors have always been tied to the lifestyle and culture associated with the sport, so there's really nobody to hold the proverbial cup out to at this point, as most of the population is detached from the NY/NJ/CT/PA/FL/KY/LA/SF elites who live "The Equestrian Lifestyle" and they certainly have no reverence for horses anymore, so the big name brands that the common-folk are familiar with and buy products from aren't going to tie themselves to sponsorship of such things. If you look at who is sponsoring big English events such as H/J Championships, a lot of the sponsors are individuals and individual businesses like auto dealerships and independent banks or financial investment firms, many of which get generous tax write-offs.
          Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!

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            #25
            When I listen to my friends who do watch a lot of sporting events, it seems to be a strongly social activity rather than so much anything about the particular sport. They like going with friends, they like being in the crowd, they like the cheering, they like the talking about it after.
            If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

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              #26
              I think it’s also important to note that many “big sponsor companies” are very much involved in our sport but not investing in it as sponsors, unless it’s local to them, like the coors family.

              we’re a very unrelateable sport, IMO. People who think of show jumping think we’re rich because every TV movie where the bad, snobby girl has always ridden rides English. Joe Schmoe doesn’t find jumping sticks entertaining while drinking a beer. They didn’t play in high school.
              www.thetexasequestrian.com

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                Original Poster

                #27
                I do agree that jumpers aren’t going to bring in the crowds or sponsors that the NFL bring it but I have to think watching a Jumper GP is more exciting than cornhole, darts, bowling, etc. and they manage. As, a previous poster mentioned a solid commentator and a story line go along way.

                I just like to see big names speaking up with ideas. If we want to see the sport survive more folks need to put ideas forward and we need to get some new blood embedded in the governing bodies. A changing of the guard is needed and I’d love to see someone like Karl take a stab and changing the sport for the better.

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                  #28
                  Originally posted by Horsehusband View Post
                  I do agree that jumpers aren’t going to bring in the crowds or sponsors that the NFL bring it but I have to think watching a Jumper GP is more exciting than cornhole, darts, bowling, etc. and they manage. As, a previous poster mentioned a solid commentator and a story line go along way.

                  I just like to see big names speaking up with ideas. If we want to see the sport survive more folks need to put ideas forward and we need to get some new blood embedded in the governing bodies. A changing of the guard is needed and I’d love to see someone like Karl take a stab and changing the sport for the better.
                  So I haven't watched ESPN in ages but I'm pretty sure that what's happened is that they are starved for content with the COVID-19 crisis and reaching out for pretty much anything they can put on the air. That is, they weren't televising those sports last year and unless there's some ratings gold, they won't be once the high profile leagues are running again.

                  Why horse sport was not able to take advantage of this, I don't know. Maybe the content we have is tied up in licenses already from other networks, either cable or streaming. Maybe the person who has control of that footage doesn't have a contact at ESPN currently.

                  There may be a person out there who can do this, but realize it's a pretty specialized set of skills and knowledge, along with the interest and conviction to beat your head on the doors until it comes together. I've seen multiple horse TV efforts over the years. The Kentucky 3-day has NBC coverage, and I'm sure someone worked hard to make that happen.

                  Anyway, it's a hard problem, and anyone who wants to push it forward would be advised to talk to some of the people who have worked on some of those various efforts on how you can put together an attractive package. You'd probably need a small team of people working on it nearly full time.
                  If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                  Comment

                    Original Poster

                    #29
                    Originally posted by poltroon View Post

                    So I haven't watched ESPN in ages but I'm pretty sure that what's happened is that they are starved for content with the COVID-19 crisis and reaching out for pretty much anything they can put on the air. That is, they weren't televising those sports last year and unless there's some ratings gold, they won't be once the high profile leagues are running again.

                    Why horse sport was not able to take advantage of this, I don't know. Maybe the content we have is tied up in licenses already from other networks, either cable or streaming. Maybe the person who has control of that footage doesn't have a contact at ESPN currently.

                    There may be a person out there who can do this, but realize it's a pretty specialized set of skills and knowledge, along with the interest and conviction to beat your head on the doors until it comes together. I've seen multiple horse TV efforts over the years. The Kentucky 3-day has NBC coverage, and I'm sure someone worked hard to make that happen.

                    Anyway, it's a hard problem, and anyone who wants to push it forward would be advised to talk to some of the people who have worked on some of those various efforts on how you can put together an attractive package. You'd probably need a small team of people working on it nearly full time.
                    I wholeheartedly agree that it is no easy task and you would definitely need folks of a particular background to pursue. Like in all aspects of business specialists are needed and should be leaned on. Maybe they should look to some of there working adult amateur population (Which USEF/USHJA seem to forget exists) with high powered business careers to step in.

                    I for one would prefer USEF fees to go towards pursuing the growth and sustainability of the sport versus for example going towards all ready extremely wealthy riders team bids.

                    Comment


                      #30
                      Originally posted by vxf111 View Post


                      If there is a sportscaster that can make amateur hunters at the 3' and lower level exciting in the play by play, I'd like to meet that person

                      Other than very big grand prix and a few other select events, most equestrian disciplines are really just not that exciting. They're largely subjective, they're not team oriented, they're not geographic (root for the home team etc.), and most people just aren't in to them. I mean, sometimes in the middle of a training level dressage test *I* wanted to stop experiencing it from boredom and I was the one riding it

                      Most shows are 90% lower level people doing basic stuff and 10% what anyone might even passably characterize as exciting.

                      I love the sport but even we don't really watch it ourselves. We watch our friends and barmates, and we watch the BIG STUFF. But raise your hand if you ever went for the day to watch a local schooling show where you knew no one JUST for the ENTERTAINMENT factor (Not because you were scoping out the grounds or helping a friend or trainer shopping etc. but because you wanted to watch strangers chip in to 2'6 for hours).
                      A good example here is poker. Any Joe Shmoe can enter a poker tournament. And thousands do. But we only see the end tables televised; because the beginning is pretty boring and there are way too many entries.
                      And no one goes to watch 8 year old soccer players, or the 50 and over flag football team. Even some high school teams have trouble drawing spectators. For sports like soccer, football, basketball, etc 99% are laypeople that no one watches and 1% are the sponsored teams that draw crowds.

                      Anyone who say's we can't draw spectators from the public isn't being creative enough and isn't familiar with similar stories of previously 'boring' sports becoming more popular due to good PR. We have HORSES people. People love animals.

                      Equestrian sports have something amazing going for them; age is not a factor. No one over 25 who hasn't been recruited is going to become the next quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. You can't learn to play basketball at 40 and then go on to become nationally famous. The average person who wasn't a prodigy in high school has zero chance to play on the field of the New England Patriots. But in equestrian sports, you can. You can never touch a horse growing up, learn to ride, and ride a grand prix next to Beezie and McLain at 50. You could never show once, then decide you want to do dressage and wind up competing GP several years down the line. You could be 65 and start doing reining and win the freestyle at QH congress. Everyone can ride. Let's show to public that they can.

                      Comment


                        #31
                        Agree to disagree but if equestrian was such a marketing draw it’s sort of amazing no one has managed to make it work before now. It’s not like they didn’t try in the 80s and 90s when Budweiser was a big sponsor of Grand Prixs
                        ~Veronica
                        "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                        http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

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                          #32
                          duplicate
                          Last edited by Tiramit; Aug. 3, 2020, 10:48 AM.
                          "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." -Henry Ford

                          Comment


                            #33
                            I think on the marketing front the thing to do is look at the events that do draw decent crowds in NA - Kentucky 3D (whatever it's called now), Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Spruce Meadows and see how they do it and try and apply the same ideas to other shows. I think some of it is the trade fairs?

                            Comment


                              #34
                              Originally posted by StormyDay View Post
                              And I truly believe it can be. A month of riding lessons can cheaper than many after school sports. Near me, soccer is $95 a week. You could easily get two lessons for the same cost. Cheer and dance are extremely costly; my cousin was expected to buy $300 bows for her hair for each different routine they did.
                              I don't think this is really apples to apples, even if a soccer club is $$$, most people get at least some exposure to "kick a ball" for free in school and the soccer obsessed kid can kick a ball around the yard/parking lot/living room/sidewalk during every waking hour for basically free. All you need for a game is a couple of kids, a little space, and anything at all that can be moved into goals. And at least a few of these kids will become pretty good just through free practice.

                              Horses, there is no free practice. You can't play for five minutes while waiting for the bus. Most parents can't tell the kids to go play with the horse to get them out from underfoot. Even if you own a horse, going to the barn is kind of an ordeal. You can't ride a horse at recess.

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                                #35
                                I am an eventer, so I am not going to pretend to have any answers. I will say that I went to one A rated H/J show to do the jumpers and was SHOCKED at how much it cost for one weekend of showing. Made be never want to go to a rated H/J show again. Curious why these shows are so much more expensive than horse trials? I will say that horse trial costs seem to be going up too.

                                Comment


                                  #36
                                  Originally posted by Trak_Eventer View Post
                                  I am an eventer, so I am not going to pretend to have any answers. I will say that I went to one A rated H/J show to do the jumpers and was SHOCKED at how much it cost for one weekend of showing. Made be never want to go to a rated H/J show again. Curious why these shows are so much more expensive than horse trials? I will say that horse trial costs seem to be going up too.
                                  A lot of it is “amenities” that no one really NEEDS (or even really wants) as well as nickel and dime fees for all sorts of groups that take their little cut.
                                  ~Veronica
                                  "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                                  http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

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                                    #37
                                    Originally posted by StormyDay View Post

                                    Everyone can ride. Let's show to public that they can.
                                    While I agree with you in spirit that yes, anyone could physically ride if their heart is set on it, the truth is that everyone cannot ride due to accessibility and financial constraints. Taking lessons isn't exactly cheap--if there's even a barn nearby--and there aren't as many horse shows within a reasonable driving distance as there used to be. Certainly not multi-ring shows where a novice spectator could find a seat and enjoy quality competition for an afternoon. One really has to have a combination of desire, funds, and an ability to get to the barn on a regular basis to ride today.

                                    Once there he or she will likely have their competitive hopes dashed when they find out how much money and travel time has to be invested just to compete at a single rated show. That rider who won the QH Congress freestyle likely didn't retire from a middle management job at a smaller company. That 50 year old who picked up show jumping and is competing against Beezie and McLain isn't working a 9-5 with an average salary.

                                    Today's competitive h/j world is not set up for the majority of working amateurs and parents. Most people simply can't regularly give days to a week of vacation and thousands of dollars to a single show, let alone the costs of purchasing the necessary horse and equipment leading up to it. Many couldn't do it once. The divide between the average person and the horse show world seems to grow with each passing year and, sadly, the governing bodies don't seem too concerned about that shift. So, to your point, "showing the public" probably won't come from the top down, yet that's precisely who Karl is suggesting should accept these sponsorships.

                                    The question to which we're already seeing an answer through today's low spectator numbers is why the masses would want to support a sport that is so blatantly set up to exclude them? The follow-up is why would a sponsor want to spend money on a sport that doesn't have the masses? The ROI as the show world stands today simply isn't there.
                                    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." -Henry Ford

                                    Comment


                                      #38
                                      Originally posted by Tiramit View Post

                                      Today's competitive h/j world is not set up for the majority of working amateurs and parents. Most people simply can't regularly give days to a week of vacation and thousands of dollars to a single show, let alone the costs of purchasing the necessary horse and equipment leading up to it. Many couldn't do it once. The divide between the average person and the horse show world seems to grow with each passing year and, sadly, the governing bodies don't seem too concerned about that shift. So, to your point, "showing the public" probably won't come from the top down, yet that's precisely who Karl is suggesting should accept these sponsorships.

                                      The question to which we're already seeing an answer through today's low spectator numbers is why the masses would want to support a sport that is so blatantly set up to exclude them? The follow-up is why would a sponsor want to spend money on a sport that doesn't have the masses? The ROI as the show world stands today simply isn't there.
                                      This. Horse showing has become a dinosaur. It is sad to see, but extinction is on the horizon.
                                      "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                                      ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

                                      Comment


                                        #39
                                        Our local fairs draw a non horse crowd, but they come for the ribs and the pies and to pet the goats and then watch the horses. Without the former, they wouldn’t come to watch the latter. We have a local rated show that draws a decent crowd, but, again, they are coming for the bouncy castle and the dog agility and spaces to let the kids run loose and the lemonade. I think we’ve just got so focused on pure horse showing that we’ve lost touch with the broader community as a whole, rather than the other way around. In Europe —someone mentioned Europe above— it’s more country fair type feel, less processed horse show, that attracts a larger crowd.

                                        Comment

                                          Original Poster

                                          #40
                                          Originally posted by Tiramit View Post


                                          Today's competitive h/j world is not set up for the majority of working amateurs and parents. Most people simply can't regularly give days to a week of vacation and thousands of dollars to a single show, let alone the costs of purchasing the necessary horse and equipment leading up to it.

                                          This is one of the biggest issues I see holding the sport back. Minimal accommodations have been made for the working adult amateurs or working parents who more or less fund the sport. Horseshows should be more weekend focused. Additionally maybe all these show companies that run 8-10 week shows should offer better flexibility and/packages for folks that want to show multiple weeks but can’t do it consecutively.

                                          Example. Create Discount packages based on the number of weeks a person will be showing. For a 10 weeks show maybe have a 3 week, 5 week, and 10 week package which in theory should get cheaper the more shows you sign up for.

                                          Additionally investment is show software for add/scratch, registration and all of that should be utilized more to eliminate paid office staff. Folks again should be incentivized to use it by getting some kind of discount.

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