Millennial engagement producing younger horse racing crowds than sporting average

The make-up of British racing crowds is younger than the overall sporting average according to the latest research released by the Racecourse Association (RCA) today.

This is being driven by impressive engagement and attendance numbers among the millennial generation who are responsible for 44% of British horse racing attendees.

The country may be faced with an ageing population but this has not directly translated into horse racing attendees. Although millennials, widely defined as those born between 1980-2000, make up just 21% of the population they are visiting racecourses in record numbers presenting a bright future for the sport.

This is helping horse racing to maintain an average attendee age lower than the sporting average. The average age of racegoers is currently 45 compared to the overall sporting average of 47.

The research, produced in conjunction with Great British Racing (GBR) and carried out by sports marketing agency Two Circles, is based on advanced ticket purchasers and builds on racing’s already strong attraction as a sporting experience for all ages.

Stephen Atkin, RCA Chief Executive, said: “This is positive news for the sport and it is encouraging that racecourses are finding ways to attract so many new people between the ages of 20 and 35 to the sport, complementing racecourse efforts to retain the support of our valued existing followers.

“Engaging audiences at an early stage is crucial for the future of racing and presents a huge opportunity for us over the next 10-15 years as millennials continue to take a larger share of the leisure pound.

“Racecourses have done a huge amount in recent years to improve the raceday experience so that it competes with what is available on the high street as well as other sporting and leisure venues and we are starting to see the results of the investment. We know millennials like to spend more money on leisure experiences than previous generations so it is great to hear that so many are choosing to go racing against all the alternative options available.

“The ambition is to get them engaging with our fantastic sport, spreading the word and coming back more often. We hope they will go onto become lifelong followers and participate more in the sport through attending, betting and even ownership or working in racing.”

Rod Street, Chief Executive of GBR, said: “Growing racing’s younger fanbase is critical to the future health of the sport and resulted in our largest ever kids’ campaign during the summer.

“With under 18s going free to the majority of fixtures and the excellent facilities and entertainment at courses, racing has a unique offering for families and their children. Over the six weeks of the summer holidays there was a 1.15% increase in attendance at family fixtures, triple the average growth, and demonstrating the allure of a day at the races for younger fans.

“As well as attracting a younger audience, it’s clear that racing also retains its broad appeal, with different groups of people attending for different reasons – whether their interest is from a sporting, betting or social perspective. For example, forty per cent of racing fans are female, twice the sports average.”

2017 Attendances – Racing maintains position as second best attended sport

The total attendance number for British racing in 2017 was 5,953,749 compared to 5,987,167 in 2016. The average attendance across the 1463 fixtures held in 2017 was 4,070 compared to 4,175 in 2016.

This is the fourth best attendance figure in the last ten years and the third best in the last 15 years when minimising the impact of free racedays.

The summer months of June, July and August were boosted once again by Great British Racing’s campaign aimed at promoting the fact that kids go free. Across the three-month period in 2017 a total of 2,617,046 people came racing compared to 2,596,002 in 2016.

Advance ticket sales increased by 6% last year compared with 2016 while 2017 also saw a 5% increase in new customers compared with the previous years and retention rates increased by 2%.

Full attendance report can be downloaded here.

Stephen Atkin said: “The overall attendance numbers for 2017 were stable and comparable to 2016. This is offset by several major racedays where big crowds would be expected being abandoned including the whole the William Hill Gold Cup meeting at Ayr, Coral Welsh Grand National day at Chepstow and Ascot’s Clarence House Chase day. If just those three had gone ahead the overall figure likely have been up on 2016.

“The increase in weekend crowds and over the summer is positive news and highlights the importance of holding fixtures at times when spectators can attend. We know the majority of racecourse attendees are very local and so the more we can do to get fixtures into customer friendly slots the more likely we are to increase crowds.

“Clearly we would like to see the overall number increasing and we are working hard with all racecourses on the next steps of our data project in conjunction with Great British Racing and Two Circles.

“While we have made great strides to increase the percentage of advance ticket sales, which brings benefits to racegoers and racecourses, there is more we can do in this area. We are also continuing our work to improve the raceday experience for customers in order improve retention rates and get people coming racing more often.”