World Equestrian Games expect big numbers
The 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games take place this week in North Carolina, and event organizers have drummed up more than 30 sponsors and expect a crowd of 300,000 to 400,000 people for the 13-day event, which they hope will vault the sport closer to the mainstream.
The event will be held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center at Tryon Resort, a $200 million facility in Mill Spring, N.C., about 70 miles west of Charlotte. The Games are held every four years and involve competitions across eight disciplines, including endurance riding, show jumping and vaulting.
This year’s event marks the first time it will be run by a private company, Tryon Equestrian Partners, instead of a municipality. The event originally was slated for Quebec, Canada, but the proposed host municipality couldn’t come up with the money to operate it.
■ The event’s top sponsors are: Longines, Coca-Cola, Land Rover, CSX, SAP, New Holland, Lugano Diamonds, Atrium Healthcare and Boehringer Ingelheim.
■ In addition, the event sold presenting sponsorships across all eight disciplines: Endurance, Meydan; Eventing, Mars Inc.; Dressage, Helgstrand Dressage; Reining, Johnson Controls; Vaulting, Christie’s International Real Estate; Driving, Polaris Ranger; Jumping, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Para Dressage, Adequan.
Event organizers think the combination of multiple disciplines held at one event, mixed with coverage from NBC Sports Group, will make the event appealing to more people.
“Our team has worked tirelessly over 18 months to prepare for the hundreds of thousands of people coming to experience the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018,” Sharon Decker, COO of the Tryon International Equestrian Center, said in a statement. “We are proud of our team and honored to host this global celebration of the best equestrian athletes in the world, both horse and rider.”
Dan Farrell, chief revenue officer for Tryon Equestrian Partners, said the company decided to sell eight different presenting sponsorships instead of having one overarching sponsor of all the competitions. He said the event’s deal with NBC helped drive sales.
“It’s an untapped market, so the pitch has been, ‘This sport has been fragmented for years with small horse shows. This is the world’s biggest [equestrian] event that’s coming to the United States,’” Farrell said.
Event organizers have said that 250 million people have “Liked” various equine interests on Facebook, while 27 million people have ridden a horse in the United States.
“It’s a huge population, but it doesn’t seem big because the individual disciplines are small,” Farrell said. “But when you aggregate them, it’s a huge audience, and brands want to reach it. If you’re Coca-Cola, you’re not going to go chase small horse shows, but now there’s this critical mass of consumers that have not been marketed to for the most part.”
Farrell said the somewhat remote location of the facility itself has not been an issue with sponsors and fans because of its proximity to Charlotte and international airports.
The complex, which plans to host equestrian events 40 weeks a year, has several venues for competition plus dining, shopping and lodging options. Tryon Equestrian Partners managing partner Mark Bellissimo said the games sold 100,000 tickets in the first week they were on sale.
Other editions of the World Equestrian Games have taken place in Stockholm, Sweden; Normandy, France; The Hague, Netherlands; and Lexington, Ky.