SPORTS MONTH: Behind the stable door

Britain's equestrian eventing team recently achieved team bronze at the Beijing Olympics, with Tina Cook making her Olympic debut presence known with an individual bronze to add to Britain's medal table.
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Despite Team GBR’s success, however, the sport is often overlooked by British business in favour of opportunities with premiership football, cricket boards and Lewis Hamilton, sorry I mean motor racing.

Statistics show that seven per cent of the British population are riders and a massive 43 per cent have an interest in some aspect of equestrianism (BETA 2005/6 National Equestrian Survey). The survey also suggests that as a nation, Britain spends a whopping £4 billion on horses and riding every year.

With statistics like this, it should come as no surprise that astute business woman and horse lover Katie Price, will soon be adding a riding-related string to her bow.

September sees the launch of KP Equestrian at one of Britain’s top eventing competitions, Burghley Horse Trials. For the first season, the range will be sold through an exclusive deal with retailer Derby House and customers are currently being granted a sneak preview and pre-ordering service.

Price says: “I’ve always found the clothes rather boring, so I thought I’d create my own. I think you can guess what the main colour in the collection is? And yes, of course, there’s lots of sparkle.”

A spokeswoman for Price said: “There’s been extensive interest in the range prior to the launch with lots of pre-orders already taken and several thousand people registering to the KP Equestrian website and it’s only a holding page at the moment.”

She continued: “I think the level of national press coverage relating to Katie and her riding over the last few months more than demonstrates that her presence in the market has and will continue to raise the profile of equestrianism and dressage. When has dressage ever had coverage on Page 3 of The Sun until now?”

The range isn’t a licensing deal in the usual manner. Instead, recognising the potential of the industry, Price has set up her own company and is involved with every aspect.

Price has recently taken up dressage at a competitive level, but like the vast majority of riders, has a long way to go before she can unseat the current world champion, Anky van Grunsven.

Grunsven recently won her third Olympic gold medal in Beijing and after winning her first, she decided to launch her own clothing range, but fashion wasn’t foremost in her mind.

A spokesperson for the rider said: “Anky felt there was not a full technical riding range on the market and that is the key factor behind the range we now have. Every item down to the last t-shirt is a technical product.”

The Anky range is distributed to 28 countries and is continuing to evolve and develop. The range includes riding and casual wear for adults and children and various accessories for the horse.

The Anky name is also growing into new areas. Saddler Ruiz Diaz has licensed the rider’s name for a range of dressage saddles and bridles and Petrie offers riding boots endorsed by the dressage queen.

Anky is not alone in this sector as top show jumpers John Whitaker and Mark Todd produce a range of riding wear and various horse wear and saddlery. Eventer Lucinda Green is also set to launch a new clothing range with Horseware in September.

Whitaker is about to launch a range based on his legendary horse, Milton and also lends his name to licensees Brogini boots and Ruiz Diaz saddles, who comments: “The experience of a great rider is combined with the talent of our master craftsmen to create a highly functional saddle.”

It’s not only riders and celebrities who lend their name to new produce – The British Equestrian Federation, the governing body for UK Olympic equestrian sport recently signed a deal with Toggi to licence the Team GBR name on a range of apparel.

Anna Greenway, communications and marketing manager for the BEF, explains: “Toggi supply good quality kit that was suitable for our needs. They supply our teams; the supporters’ range is spin off from this kit. We plan to produce a different supporters range each year for the next couple of years. It helps us to promote our brand and also generates income that we can give directly back to the teams.”

Of equestrian licensing in general, Greenway says: “It’s a good way for companies to make the consumer think their product is good quality and the returns are pretty good for the riders in what can be an expensive sport.”

With the rider and horse already kitted out with labels, it may seem that the market is saturated, but firms like veterinary and agricultural manufacturer, Net-Tex have developed equestrian licensing further.

The company has teamed up with top dressage rider, Carl Hester to launch The Carl Hester Performance Range of horse supplements.

Hester explains: “The range is designed for every horse whatever its discipline or level. I wanted to create a range that combined the latest scientific research with innovation and chose to work with Net-Tex because I know how good their products are.”

The firm has also teamed up with professional show rider and producer Lynn Russell to produce the It’s Showtime brand, offering over 20 grooming products for showing enthusiasts.

Kevin Perry, national sales manager at Net-Tex, says: “By having reputable signatures on the brands it represents the high quality of the products that consumers will buy to use on their own horses. The range has been very well received.”

Perry sings the praises of licensed brands, explaining: “For us, licensed brands are beginning to become more popular than non-licensed products, especially in the UK market. Consumers don’t have to remember the name of the product or company, just the name of the rider, which makes follow through sales much greater.”

Still not sure if there are any gaps left in the equestrian licensing industry? Well it may surprise you to know that this business is now even expanding outside the stable and entering the world of entertainment.

Eventers Pippa Funnell, Mary King and Lucinda Green and show jumper Ellen Whitaker have already launched equine video games and Olympian Tim Stockdale is about to join the list.
Ghostlight publish Mary King’s Riding School, a virtual horse riding game developed exclusively for Nintendo DS.

Marketing account manager, Adrian Clews says: “Mary King’s Riding School is a huge achievement and I have no doubt the beginning of a global franchise for Ghostlight. It’s great to be able to give young DS owners the chance to live the dream and compete at the highest level in International three day eventing.”

In conclusion, Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association comments: “BETA welcomes all commercial enterprise that promotes sales of equestrian products in a responsible yet imaginative way.”

She continues: “We believe the trend [for licensed products] will continue, especially in the light of heightened interest in some top riders following the Olympic Games. It can only be a positive development that non-professional riders, such as Katie Price, are keen to get involved with equestrianism.

“BETA works to promote riding as a leisure activity and there’s no doubt that when celebrities take part, the audience is broadened and more people become engaged as riding is perceived as an accessible and enjoyable pastime.”

For further information, see the following sites:
www.kpequestrian.com
www.derbyhouse.co.uk
www.anky.com
www.johnwhitakerintltd.com
www.horseware.com
www.bef.co.uk
www.toggi.com
www.net-tex.co.uk
www.ghostlight.uk.com
www.avanquest.com/UK
www.beta-uk.org

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