Major sponsors stay in the saddle for RDS Horse Show
YESTERDAY saw the return of what is one of the main events on the Dublin sporting and social calendar with the Horse Show opening at the RDS.
The show will run until Sunday and, as usual, is providing four days of thrills and spills with the Puissance and the Nations Cup just two of the better-known events of the week.
There is much more to the Horse Show than the show jumping events in the main arena, however. The show retains its close ties to the equine industry and boasts more than 300 trade stands as well as appearances by the 'Horse Whisperer', Monty Roberts.
All this needs to be paid for, and as far as RDS chief executive Michael Duffy is concerned, this year's event has already been a success.
"Our sponsorship levels this year have been very satisfactory for us. We retained all our major sponsors and overall sponsorship is worth more than €900,000 against a spend of €3.7m so it is incredibly important for us."
Retaining sponsors in the middle of the worst recession in generations may appear to be quite a difficult task but for the RDS, that has not been a problem.
At 142 years old and counting, the Horse Show is as established as an event can be and this year retains high end partners such as watch maker Longines and Land Rover.
"Of course there would be concern about retaining sponsors in a time like this but the feedback we have got is that the sponsors we deal with have become much more selective when deciding what they want their brand to be associated with.
"The Horse Show is certainly one of the better known equestrian events so that has not really been a problem for us.
"Obviously with any event you will lose some smaller sponsors but that slack can usually be picked up without a problem.
"The main issue is always making sure that the title sponsors are in place."
Despite the recession, the cost of the Horse Show has grown substantially in recent years. The spend in the 2005/2006 period was less than €3m. Now it is nearly €4m.
"One thing that people don't realise is that the RDS does not run the Horse Show for profit," says Mr Duffy.
"It's what we call a foundation event and is run on a break even basis. The important thing for us is make sure that the link between the 'consumer' side of the show and the equine industry is not lost.
"Therefore, while we have modernised the event in some respects -- ladies day for example -- we have retained some of the more traditional aspects of the show like the farm animal display."
By one measure the show contributes €43m to the wider economy and with corporate hospitality sold out and strong ticket sales, the Horse Show looks set for another good year.