The Inside Track - The regular column from the RCA
Goodwood - Just Champion!
BUILDING a beach on the racecourse proved a champion idea for Goodwood last year, when the August Bank Holiday family attraction pushed the track to top honours at the end-of-season Showcase Awards.
So successful was the exercise that it will be repeated in 2013, as part of strengthening popular appeal for the fixture, which was extended to three days by virtue of other than horseracing influences.
Goodwood managing director Adam Waterworth explains: “We had to find a new home for our mid-September Saturday-Sunday fixture last year because it clashed with the Revival motor sport event on the estate, and by rejigging things we created a three-day meeting over the August Bank Holiday.
“We already had the Saturday and Sunday, but the meeting was beginning to lose its way, because although it had a great day’s racing on the Saturday, with the Celebration Mile and a £100,000 handicap, it didn’t particularly stand out as a family raceday.”
Putting focus back into the meeting was the responsibility of Goodwood’s creative team – Patricia Dickie, who has an input to all events on the estate, James Crespi, the racecourse operations manager, Bradley Eccleshare, the marketing manager, and Waterworth, who two years ago succeeded one of racing’s longest-serving administrators, Rod Fabricius.
“If you get enough time, make enough cups of tea and find enough space to be creative, you tend to come up with a winner, especially with this team,” Waterworth says, “and we did.
“The idea of recreating a traditional English seaside holiday theme on a raceday just fitted.
“We knew what we wanted to say about the meeting; it was just a matter of tying the whole thing together, and Bradley came up with the creative design for a poster that was the final piece of the jigsaw.”
The central point was to build the beach on the east parade-ring lawn, to the left hand side of the paddock, and work that into the funfair and family entertainment that was already in place.
Waterworth’s first reaction was one of slight scepticism. “I said, ‘Oh yes, that’ll be fun,’” he recalls, “but James, the ops team and Patricia came up with a way of creating an area that was so obviously a South Coast beach, with the pebbles, beach huts, lobster nets, deckchairs and bandstand.
“We were all slightly nervous about whether we could pull it off, but once it was done, it was perfect. It looked great, and everyone got it.”
The focal point of marketing the event was a poster, showing two horses bursting from a seaside scene, with Goodwood’s familiar sail-topped grandstands in the background.
“The poster was so evocative of what we were trying to do,” Waterworth says. “We used it as a piece of direct mail, in the major stations on the Southern network out of London, and in local advertising. We even sold a number of the posters for charity. Instant memorabilia!
“And it worked out very well, although the weather summed up our 2012 season. Although, having gone for a traditional English Bank Holiday feel, I suppose we could have expected poor weather.
“Friday night was foul; Saturday morning was foul but it got better through the afternoon and you could see the area was starting to work, and on Sunday, when the weather played ball, we had over 10,000 people for the first time in about three years, and it was great.”
Looking to this year, Waterworth explains: “It was always going to be easier once we’d staged it for the first time, because until then I’m not sure even we knew what it would look like. Now we have confidence in the idea and know how we can improve it.
“We need activities for younger children, and almost as a result of the first exercise and the feedback we got, we’re building an entirely new permanent playground.
“We’ve also got a stronger tie-in with Butlins at Bognor Regis, who were involved last year by giving us some content but will have more input this year. They want things for their customers to do during the day, so we’ll be the place where they send them.
“It’s all about tweaks and improvements, but at least we know the seaside theme works, regardless of the weather.”
Goodwood had two other nominations at the latest Showcase Awards – for food and beverage in the new 1812 Bar, which came into the executive’s programme to refurbish one main grandstand area each year, and for corporate social responsibility through the lady jockeys’ charity race during the Glorious meeting.
“If the Showcase Awards are all about innovation and focus on customer experience, I think we got the overall award on the basis of two years’ effort,” Waterworth says.
“Over that period we have introduced three Friday nights with prominent DJs, two major food and beverage projects, and the charity element of the lady jockeys’ race, which has raised over £200,000 in each of the two years. And then the August Bank Holiday effort ticked more boxes.
“The Showcase day-long event and the awards are a great idea – and I don’t say that just because we’re won the major award this time.
“The idea has its roots in Racing For Change and the raceday experience element that has been taken on by the RCA, and the whole day is invaluable.
“How many other industries share good ideas – and, yes, some bad ideas – so openly?
“There isn’t a feeling of ‘if we have a good idea, let’s keep it to ourselves.’ There’s a genuine feeling that if you’ve had a good idea, you actually want to share it. And why shouldn’t we.
“If one of the Scottish tracks decides to put on a DJ, like we’ve done, that’s great. It won’t affect us, but it might give them a lift.
“And if someone wants to build a beach, why not? We can help them do it.”