The Inside Track - The regular column from the RCA
The Showcase Awards 2012 - A Review
SHOWCASE awards for racecourses? Surely just an excuse for everyone to pat each other on the back and go on their merry way.
Not so, says Caroline Davies, racecourse services director for the Racecourse Association, discussing the event at York in November, when awards were handed out to cover seven categories and Goodwood was named the overall champion.
Davies, who led the team organising the event for the third year, explains: “Yes, the Showcase Awards are an opportunity for celebration, but they also provide a valuable platform for racecourses to demonstrate their initiative and share ideas with the objective of raising minimum standards.”
RCA chairman Ian Barlow concurs, saying: “The underlying theme with Showcase is innovation, which needs to be a continuous process, integral to good management, if we are to stay competitive in the leisure market in the face of a stagnant economy.”
The awards are judged by an independent panel headed by Chris McFadden, chairman of Racing Enterprises Ltd (REL), which has developed the Racing For Change exercise.
One of the four pillars on which RFC built its promotional initiatives was a raceday experience group run by the RCA, which includes representatives from a wide cross-section of racecourses from the major groups to the smaller independents, and it was from here that the idea for the Showcase Awards was developed.
Davies says: “Before Racing For Change, everyone was doing their own thing, without focus, but the Showcase Awards have changed that, by giving racecourses a vehicle to display their promotion of the overall raceday experience.
“The first two events were held at Doncaster and Epsom, and each year we have tweaked the categories to make them more relevant.
“Originally, the vast majority of issues were to do with marketing, so we’ve tailored the categories to better reflect the breadth of what racecourses are doing. We did think about increasing the number of awards, but the board decided to keep it tight and aspirational.”
Marketing still has a place, but categories range from All About the Horse and Events to Food and Beverage and Owners’ Raceday Experience.
This year, for the first time, a Corporate Social Responsibility category was introduced, and drew a strong entry. The award went to East Yorkshire for the Beverley Bus, which brings in racegoers from outlying areas.
The day-long Showcase event included a series of presentations by experts from within and outside the racecourse environment.
This year the cast list included the double act of York’s William Derby and former Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Michael Caulfield with an examination of the team aspect of improving the raceday experience.
Derby provided practical evidence of what is required in staff training and briefing, while Caulfield, who has moved into the world of sports psychology, focussed on motivation and communication with regard to the breadth of people involved in running a successful raceday.
In separate presentations Channel 4 Racing boss Jamie Aitchison explained how the new TV contract will pan out; Rod Street gave an update on the British Champions Series, and Bill Farnsworth, Stephen Higgins, Jim McGrath and Phil White and Stephen Wallis covered the raceday experience from the owners’ angle.
From the marketing side, David Fraser shared the key messages from his regular blog on the RCA website, where he visits other sporting events and venues and highlights areas of customer service and best practice from which racecourses can benefit.
Sharing ideas is the culmination of the Showcase Awards exercise, Davies says.
She explains: “The idea was to promote ‘best in class’ for other racecourses to use in their own way, and the engagement from them has been tremendous.
“One of the most important initiatives was to get VisitEngland, the English Tourist Board, on side for the first time in a sports area, and their representatives have said they couldn’t believe how eager racecourses were to take on fresh ideas and share their experiences.
“Though in many ways the courses are in competition, they have shown that the whole is more important than the individual.”
In order to share ideas, the RCA has produced information booklets, which pick up on the winning Showcase initiatives and pass on more details.
Davies adds: “The whole exercise has shown that it’s not just the groups and big racecourses where things are happening; it’s right across the board.
“All racecourses are involved to a degree, because VisitEngland, and its Scottish counterpart VisitScotland, track each one, and although there are still a few courses that are not heavily involved in the Showcase Awards, and probably never will be, others that didn’t show an interest in the first two years are coming on board.”
Looking ahead, she says: “The Showcase is now a very significant part of the RCA service, as we provide a conduit for the racecourses in response to demands from individual members, but we have to maintain the momentum.
“We have already focussed on thorny issues such as catering and training of temporary staff, where we collectively organise assistance, and throughout next year we will be running a number of master classes.
“Nobody can afford to sit back and rest on their laurels.”
2012 SHOWCASE AWARDS WINNERS
Corporate Social Responsibility – Beverley, for the Beverley Bus.
Food and Beverage – Newbury, for creating a premium stand.
Owners’ Raceday Experience – Ayr, for the introduction of improved complimentary lunches and owners’ liaison.
Operational Excellence – Doncaster, for Winning Ways, a team and service development initiative.
Marketing – Goodwood, for the August Bank Holiday weekend promotion.
All About the Horse – Aintree, for promoting horse welfare at the Grand National meeting; York, for unlocking the potential of the Frankel factor.
Events – Beverley, for Fashion Week.
Showcase Champion – Goodwood.
Judging panel: Chris McFadden (Racing Enterprises Ltd, chairman), Louise Agran (Racing Post), David Fraser (Harrison:Fraser), Stephen Smith (Racehorse Owners Association), Janet Uttley (VisitEngland).