A corporate sponsor for the dressage team that not only takes advantage of marketing opportunities, but also helps promote the sport while doing so could be a real boon for us. In Europe, the major corporations set up funds for rider programs, horse show prize money and team support. They advertise all over the competition arenas here. RaboBank, Reem Acra, Meggle and Swarovski are firms that come to mind. You cannot attend a major horse show without major corporate advertising on display.
I can envision this type of team sponsor getting a lot of return on advertising during the winter season in Wellington. Ralph Lauren? Bank of America? Budweiser? All U.S. riders on the short list would advertise for the corporate sponsor on their saddle pads and make their photo images available for advertising.
This must be one duty of the fundraiser—to secure corporate sponsorships for the team. The second duty would be to promote the sport.
Market The Sport Of Dressage
Marketing is crucial in this Internet Age. The more you market the sport, the more attractive it becomes to corporate sponsorship. We need to make heroes out of our horses and riders and make top competitions the place that everyone wants to be. We need exposure on TV, radio, talk shows and every major newspaper in the USA. Yes, much of this needs to be bought and paid for. But for every little kid who wants to grow up to be a Grand Prix rider, we create another avenue for expanding support for our sport.
In Europe, the horse show programs are full of glossy photos and intimate stories about the competitors. Riders are legends in Europe—they have celebrity status and are treated like the top athletes and performers that they are by the press, horse show organizers and spectators. Watch the video promo for the WDM tour.
It only takes a bit of clever advertising to create excitement in our sport. Autograph hours, interviews with VIPS and riders, and exhibitions during competition breaks increase spectator interest at shows
Leagues like the World Dressage Masters are forming in Europe that market their top competitors in order to draw more spectators to the competitions. Can we form a similar Western Dressage Masters group? Could we do this with shows in Canada, Mexico and South America included in the League? I believe that two of my colleagues are working on a Pan Am league right now—Thomas Baur (Germany) and Maribel Alonso (Mexico). The USA needs a representative in this effort.
I am throwing ideas out there because we need to start thinking outside the box. Riders are not generally talented in the area of high finance, but we have clients who are successful in all walks of life, and they love our sport as much as we do. Let’s ask them for help. Why can’t George Soros help us with a plan? His son is an American dressage rider. We need some movers and shakers with interest in our industry to help us find a way to fund our sport.
First, we need a viable plan for success. Then we need to find a way to pay for it. We all realize that compromises will need to be made along the way. But we need to start now, aim high and compromise later. How much we have to compromise will be due to either the success or failure of our team fundraiser.
I once interviewed the CEO of Boral Corporation in Australia for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Sydney. When I asked him how he got the financing to fund his business he said, “Catherine, money is the easiest commodity in the world to come by.” Now that is an attitude that gets things done, and we need to find someone with this attitude to help us.
Where To Start
In November 2008, our federation organized a meeting of the U.S. dressage riders in Chicago to discuss the Olympic Games, our results there, and a plan for going forward with or without a new team coach. The meeting was good for our sport, and some of the riders’ suggestions were taken to heart. I was one of the people who said we needed a new team coach if we were to be successful in international competition in the future. Four years later, I still believe that the right team coach will bring us good fortune, but only when combined with all the other elements I have discussed in these blogs.
We need to get together again this year, and if the USEF is not interested in hosting another meeting, we as riders should organize our own. We should invite dressage riders, trainers, coaches, owners, sponsors and horse show organizers to come up with ideas and talk about possibilities for the future. More importantly, we should invite anyone who has innovative ideas for marketing and finance.
What we need now is a change in leadership, most of all a strong leadership that thinks outside the box and moves away from the traditional ways of viewing and supporting equestrian sport in our country. We need to find talented people for each of the four tasks, and we need motivation coming from all sides to push us to success. We have to drop our tendencies toward repeating past mistakes and sticking to plans that don’t work just because that is what we have always done. We need new blood. It’s time to work together and promote our sport to the advantage of all involved.
I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin’ it like it is from Vechta, Germany.
Training Tip of the Day: Ask your friends and colleagues for help.