IMG on taking Ascot Racecourse to the High Street

With plans to extend Ascot into the High Street retail space, Gabrielle Sims from IMG hopes to take the iconic horse racing brand into new territories and categories. Here, she reveals why apparel, accessories, gifting and more are perfect for the brand.

Can you tell us about the deal with Ascot, what can we expect to see the new partnership deliver?
It’s a multi-year worldwide licensing representation deal and we’re partnering with them to implement onsite retailing and extend that into a year-round High Street licensing programme. We want to develop an international lifestyle brand through licensing, taking Ascot into new territories and categories that have synergy with the core brand, such as the fashion, racing, social and its unique heritage. This leads well into product areas like apparel, accessories, gifting, home and chinaware. Ascot has it all.

Our goal is to create an innovative shopping experience where brand-savvy consumers can buy high-quality Ascot and Royal Ascot-inspired products that will remind them of their visit.

What will the new on-site retail stores be offering consumers?
The new on-site stores will offer a retail experience that mirrors the elegance and style of a day at Ascot, with merchandise that is designed to appeal to a wide range of consumers at various price brackets. Every product will be Ascot or Royal Ascot-branded and will be produced to a quality that reflects Ascot’s brand values and aspiration of “raising the standard”, whether it is a cashmere picnic rug or a set of children’s colouring pens. IMG has applied its years of experience of managing high-end event retailing at other events to creating three on-site stores for Royal Ascot (and two for other Ascot summer racedays), which will help to make retailing an integral part of a day at the races.

It will be a chance for consumers to shop and engage with the brand. There hasn’t been any licensed product of this calibre at Ascot before and we are excited to unveil these new shopping destinations to consumers.

What demand have you seen for Ascot consumer products, how will the new partnership drive and grow the popularity of the Ascot brand?
Ascot is a well-established, world-class brand with over 600,000 people attending events at the racecourse throughout the year, including 300,000 people during Royal Ascot. There is huge demand for horse-racing, with the sport generating over £1.2 billion per annum and TV coverage attracting audiences of up to a third of the UK population throughout the year. So of course our licensing programme aims to tap into that core horse-racing consumer, but also into the consumer that is interested in fashion, horses and status and sees Ascot as an aspirational brand. We are now taking Ascot to the High Street and making the brand more accessible for consumers that might not attend the racing but aspire to live that lifestyle.

Can you talk us through the recent licensing partnerships?
We’ve signed up five high-profile licensees ahead of Royal Ascot, all of which tie in well with the Ascot brand. These are renowned British brands that are well-established and have a connection with heritage and the world of racing, and the category works well as an extension of the brand.

For example, dining and socialising are key facets of the Ascot experience, so we are very excited about Christy’s collection of picnic blankets, seat pads and towels and Milly Green’s specially-designed food gifts.

Additionally, with fashion and accessorising being at the heart of a day at Ascot, we are delighted to have signed iconic accessories brands like Links of London, Christys’ Hats and Oliver Brown.

What is the plan for the Ascot brand in the consumer products sector – what is the brand messaging and what makes an ideal partner for the brand?
We are focusing on British companies and brands that have rich and long-standing heritage. We want to build a global brand with two personalities – Royal Ascot being the luxury brand that comes out during the summer period, and Ascot being a year-round aspirational brand that ties in with the racecourse itself. Both have associations with royal heritage, style, pageantry and quality.

There are three core elements for the programme – fashion, dining and horse racing – so we want to build our portfolio across each of these.

While we have already tapped into fashion accessories with Links of London, Oliver Brown and Christys’ hats, we want to build on this and secure apparel as a core category, as well as chinaware.

Are there plans to take the Ascot retail stores to the High Street?
There are no plans to take the Ascot retail stores to the High Street at this stage. We want to ensure our on-site stores become a special destination shop where people coming to the races can go to enhance their experience. We are building the brand across the High Street in a number of different retailers, making it accessible to different demographics across a range of mid to high-end channels.

Where do you expect to see the Ascot brand in the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months, we expect to see the Ascot brand launched into retail with great success. We will be going into our second racing season having learnt from what worked this year and looking at ways to improve and build on that. We will be focusing on extending the brand into other categories and international territories as well.

Anything you’d like to add?
We’re thrilled to be representing Ascot and the response so far has been fantastic. The fact Ascot is associated with so many different areas allows us to extend into many different categories.