After a decade with the Breeders’ Cup, Carter Carnegie has been recruited to market British racing around the globe; it’s a role that requires fresh ideas but also recognition of tradition
The respected US journalist, Ray Paulick, said that you were the most impressive Breeders’ Cup executive he had seen in 20 years. So what can British racing expect from Carter Carnegie?
I want people to think of Great British Racing International (GBRI) as an engine to promote international growth and to be aware that we are designed to support all the different segments of the industry. Though I must stress that we are still putting a business plan together.
It’s been fascinating discovering all the various parts that make British racing work. In my 13 years as a sports marketer involved with horseracing, I have always considered it to be one of the few global sports that share a global fan base through their common passion – breeding and watching the thoroughbred. There is something especially exciting about witnessing the fastest from different countries competing against each other.
Can you explain exactly what your duties and goals are as the International Executive of Great British Racing International (GBRI)?
First, it has to be said the British racing industry has been very forward thinking in developing GBRI and understanding that we need an international presence to improve relations between the different jurisdictions. GBRI is a resource looking outside the borders to see how it can improve racing internationally and, as a result, benefit the sport domestically. GBRI will specifically identify economic activities and promotional opportunities outside the UK that will enhance British racing. We are based in the BHA offices in London and, personally, my role is to be very visible outside the UK, throughout the world of breeding, sales and racing.
What attracted you to take the job in British racing and how much do you know about the sport here?
I have always recognised Britain as the centre of excellence for the sport. Modern thoroughbred racing comes from Britain and that makes me very proud when I consider that I am leading a team from inception to define how Britain positions itself on the international stage. That is individually challenging. I have spent the last few months meeting with the ROA, RCA and other organisations that make up the core of our sport. It is a learning curve for me, understanding all the different pieces that make British racing function.
Did you grow up watching British racing and what are your earliest memories?
I grew up in Paris and my earliest introductions to the sport came at Longchamp, Deauville and Chantilly. My first visit to a British racecourse was in 1988 when my father took me to Epsom to watch Kahyasi win the Derby. I was 16 and it was a special time with my father. It is always a day I will look back on, not forgetting that it was my introduction to British racing. I’ll never forget having to wear a morning suit and that, together with all the pageantry and tradition, left a lasting impression on a 16-year-old American.
There is already massive investment from the Middle East in British bloodstock. How do you go about securing even more, and which other parts of the world are you looking at?
We have to generate awareness of the excellent product we have. I can see more investment from the Middle East; Qatar has been getting heavily involved and there are other individuals wishing to race here, so I can envisage the Middle East involvement growing. There are opportunities in Britain for lots of people, be they American, South American or other Europeans. It takes a very special individual looking for that specific attraction; the prestige, the history and the level of competition. Anywhere there is racing we need to make sure they recognise Britain as a centre of excellence. We must become their destination when they go shopping for bloodstock or wish to race.
Will you be developing any strategies with the UK sales companies to attract more international business?
We want to help them develop more trade between different countries and assist them in what they are already accomplishing. I am intrigued by Goffs’ new London sale to be held at Kempton Park the day before Royal Ascot next June and if we can be of any help we’ll be there. Tattersalls are a global leader and doing a fantastic job attracting people internationally to buy at the high end and the middle market.
You served ten years with the Breeders’ Cup, including latterly as senior Vice-President. Did you have a similar role there and does British racing offer more opportunities for investors than the sport in America?
My role is different; at the Breeders’ Cup I was very commercially focused, developing its sponsorship/partnership platform and after that internationalising the event. The similarities between the two jobs are racing and the international scene, but I am not looking to duplicate what I did at the Breeders’ Cup.
Any sport offers opportunities for sponsors if you can create the right openings for the interested parties. You have to find companies that do business in the UK that will benefit from exposure in racing; we’ll be reaching out to their budgets. I want to see more commercial partners associated with racing here.
At present there is no race sponsorship at Royal Ascot. Is this something you can see changing and will British racing have to sacrifice some aspects of tradition in order to appeal more to global investors?
It is not my place to tell the Royal Ascot Authority what to do with their meeting. I have great respect for the fact that there is no sponsorship associated with Royal Ascot. There are other sporting events in the world that do not have commercial partners that are either tied to the event or are very visible, including the Masters in golf, where there is no sponsorship on course, and the Olympics, when you don’t see sponsors around the Olympic venues.
You have to keep a very strong balance between tradition and change; tradition is an important part of racing in Britain. But you have to give up certain elements of what you do if other people want to do business with you; there must be compromise.
You’ve talked about working with stakeholders to “unlock more value for potential commercial partners”. What does that mean in layman’s terms?
We often treat sponsorship in a very traditional way, which is a name on the race, banners around the racecourse etc. It can be very one- dimensional. What I mean by “unlocking value” is that there are a lot of other things that make British racing appealing and if we can deliver them to clients they will find more value in the sport.
For example, the number of people who attend British tracks is fairly large and if you want to reach a mass market there is a real opportunity. If you want to reach high net-worth individuals, racing offers that in more ways than any other sporting activity in Britain. It is more than just showing sponsors’ banners; it’s getting the product in people’s hands and communicating directly with them, at the same time recognising that the race fan is supporting a real passion and, therefore, identifying with the investment those sponsors are making, and in return buying their products. We must improve the dialogue between the sponsor and the consumer.
You have been involved with both the NBA (National Basketball Association) and NFL (National Football League) in America. What work did you do with these sports and how successful were you?
I worked for a company called Street Ball Partners International, who had relationships with the NBA and the NFL and we were involved in grassroots events. We went to different cities in the US and around the world and I took on the staging of different events in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Israel. It was taking these sports and bringing them to a level where ordinary people could participate. We call it grassroots marketing.
British racing relies heavily on sponsorship from bookmakers and Middle East-backed breeding operations and companies. How easy is it to find other sources of investment?
We need to find other mainstream brands; there is a big element between fashion and racing, for example, or even motor companies and racing. They are categories that can be explored. We need to be able to show them the value of an association with racing and that would grow their business.
What makes British racing so attractive to foreign investment?
From an owner’s standpoint it is the mystique, tradition, prestige, glamour and the association with the Royal family. All those elements put together, plus the fact that people who go racing in Britain genuinely care about the sport and the horse.
There has been talk that the Breeders’ Cup is not the championship event it used to be. Is it suffering from overseas competition?
I don’t think it is the Breeders’ Cup going down; it is everyone else coming up and creating new opportunities. We have to collaborate more internationally, learn to compromise and create a better calendar to provide owners, racing’s most important stakeholders, with the opportunity to capitalise on a good horse internationally.
Why shouldn’t it be possible to run at Ireland’s showcase finale (planned for 2014), followed by the Arc, then Champions’ Day, the Breeders’ Cup, and perhaps even Japan and Hong Kong? Creating a better calendar is a very noble aspiration but there would need to be a lot of discussion and agreement.