Cheltenham is one of the busiest weeks for betting in the sporting calendar, and a racing week that attracts more than just fans of the horses.
Just a quick look at Twitter and football websites shows that Cheltenham is marketed heavily to fans seeking out football content. But as punters line the pockets of the rapacious bookmakers the question still remains ‘why is the love affair between horse racing and football so strong?’
During Cheltenham week football publications are inundated with New Customer offers, Bookmaker offers and even Champions League & Cheltenham doubles so there is clearly a desire for a specific type of punter: one that has more than a passing interest in football.
At Snack Media, we have an audience of 26 million football fans and it’s quite clear that the biggest horse racing festivals are peak time for this crossover.
But why is this the case?
One reason could be that football and horse racing are the most popular areas for sports betting. They line up together nicely in the eyes of the shrewd punter, but another theory could be that the demographics are tightly aligned too. So far, in what is always a notorious week for racing, we have seen football clubs promoting horse racing odds and offers on behalf of their bookmaker partners, and this tends to be the theme for all major festivals during the calendar – further adding to the affiliation between the two sports. You’ll see it again next month at the Grand National, and again at Ascot in the summer.
Get money back as a free bet up to £10 if your horse loses the first or last race each day with @betway!
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) March 12, 2019
Then add in the current and ex-footballers who invest into racehorses to feed their passion for the sport and their potentially lavish lifestyles. It’s natural that this would filter down to football fans when they see Alex Ferguson, Michael Owen, Charlie Austin or Harry Redknapp to name a few enjoying the festivals. It gives football fans more of a reason to read about the sport and further their understanding of it.
The smart bookies focus their marketing message around two key areas: ease of entry and fear of missing out. That’s a smart move when it comes to both football and horse racing because the outcomes are endless and the sports are both so easy to understand. They’re undoubtedly thrilling to watch and both have definitive end results which can be depicted easily in online news and social media platforms, where the younger generation spend most of their time.
Indeed, there is a fairly sizeable audience in this younger demographic who aren’t afraid to spend £5 – £10 stakes on what might seem like a nothing bet just to attain recognition on social media or kudos within their WhatsApp group if it comes off. It makes you wonder if even the winnings are incidental to the punter who’s in it for glory.
Sir Alex Ferguson ✅
Jeremy Kyle ✅@chrishughes_22 ✅
Must be the #CheltenhamFestival
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 12, 2019
However, if you’re a football fan of any age it doesn’t matter whether you’re consuming TV, Radio, OOH or Digital advertising the choice seems to be infinite and never before have we seen so many big players with whom a punter can place a bet on Cheltenham. One of those channels that has undoubtedly grown the affiliation between football and horse racing is digital as it highlights the big (or even absurd) winners who’ve placed unlikely accumulators and lucky 15’s and profited from a bizarre confluence of events. You’ll see that this week with Cheltenham, but if you look hard enough you’ll find it every Saturday evening among football fans, too.
What is clear though is the affiliation between the two sports isn’t going anywhere soon as we approach one of the biggest events of the year: The Grand National at Aintree.
Bookmakers will again seek to capitalise on this audience, but aren’t they missing a trick by relying on the old habits of a Twitter post from their partner here and a banner ad on a website there? Shouldn’t the question become ‘what’s next?’ Isn’t it more effective – not to mention more responsible – for bookmakers to use the connection between football fans and horse racing fans to create content to educate and entertain football fans about horse racing? Isn’t it better to foster new fans of the sport rather than simply advertise an offer and hope for the best?
If nothing else, an interesting connection between horse racing and football exists within the sports betting sphere. The bookies are never ones to miss a trick – but you get the feeling that there could be a greater emphasis on fostering those links with digital content and social media.
Author: Calum Hopkins, Senior Commercial Manager, Snack Media
For Enquiries Please Email: Calum@Snack-Media.com