We chat to IMG’s licensing director Gabrielle Sims about the agency’s plans for the racecourse.
With Royal Ascot attracting close to 300,000 spectators over five days and £33m of retail spend attributable to those race-goers on fashion and beauty products alone, interest from lifestyle orientated licensees and prestigious brands has been, understandably, considerable.
“The initial response has been fantastic,” says IMG’s UK licensing director, Gabrielle Sims. “Ascot already has a renowned global appeal which meant we’ve been able to hit the ground running.”
With this in mind, Gabrielle highlights the potential of the Ascot programme when you consider what people associate it with – not just the horse racing itself, but the fashion and social elements and its famous royal heritage.
“Our target audience stretches across both male and female, racing fans and brand savvy non race-goers alike,” explains Gabrielle. “Part of our strategic approach is therefore to extend what is one brand, with two personalities, enabling us to target two different markets, the fans and consumers of Ascot, as well as those of Royal Ascot.”
The core Ascot brand will be a year-round lifestyle programme with a focus on sporting, equestrian and outdoor influences. IMG will take a more fashion and luxury-led approach to Royal Ascot, working with branded partners and focused more on the spring and summer seasons only.
Gabrielle advises that several deals are imminent across categories including hats, accessories and fashion. Talks are ongoing with other potential partners across a broad range of products from apparel, bags, leather goods, and homewares – including a design by Sophie Allport for a range of china, stationery and memorabilia.
Meanwhile work on an elegant style guide has just been completed which, using a combination of existing assets and a variety of creative styles, will deliver themes and packaging that really capture the brand’s DNA.
In addition and as of spring next year, IMG will manage the on-site retailing on behalf of the racecourse – something the company has done for other events such as Wimbledon and The Open Championship. Shops will be situated in three different key locations at Royal Ascot in June, with a single shop at seven other meetings between May and October, including the King George Weekend in July and at the finale to the British flat season, QIPCO British Champions Day.
“Ascot is quintessentially British and as such, we are currently targeting British brands to tie in with the sense of occasion, culture and pageantry of both the course and its iconic royal connections,” adds Gabrielle.
“Throw in the facts that Ascot holds some of the biggest race meetings of the year and is set to benefit from a new TV deal with ITV and it has everything needed to grow into an enduring programme.”