The Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest events on the National Hunt calendar. As well as the hundreds of thousands of people that actually turn up to Prestbury Park in order to watch the races, there are also millions of others that tune it on televisions around the world. As a result, the event is one that appeals to companies that are hoping to get their name into the public domain. Little wonder, then, that becoming a sponsor of a race that is run during Festival week is something that most big companies want to do.
From Boodles to WellChild, Ryanair to Paddy Power, some of the biggest companies in the world are happy to be associated with the Festival on account of the publicity that their sponsorship will gain them. The question is, why would companies want to pay large amounts of money in order to become part of the Prestbury Park family? It isn’t necessarily all that easy to answer, of course, but there is certainly an extent to which different companies will feel as though the sort of people that watch the Cheltenham Festival would make excellent customers for them in the future.
Cheltenham Festival Race Sponsors
|Race||Sponsor||Sponsor Since||Prize Money|
|Arkle Challenge Trophy||Sporting Life||2021||£179,157|
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
The Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Hurdle
Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
The Broadway Novices' Chase
Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle
|Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle||Coral||1993||£98,370|
|County Handicap Hurdle||McCoy||2021||£98,370|
Foxhunter Challenge Cup
Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase
|St. James's Place plc||2016||£48,125|
|Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup||JRL Group||2022||£72,188|
|Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase||Glenfarclas||2009||£73,778|
JCB Triumph Hurdle
The Triumph Hurdle
|Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase||No Sponsor||n/a||£122,963|
|Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle||No Sponsor||n/a||£73,778|
Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Chase
Liberthine Mares’ Chase
|National Hunt Chase||Ukraine Appeal||2022||£118,888|
|Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle||Pertemps||2002||£98,370|
|Plate Handicap Chase||Craft Irish Whiskey Co.||2022||£118,044|
|Queen Mother Champion Chase||Betway||2015||£392,120|
The Festival Trophy
Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle
Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle
Spa Novices' Hurdle
The Spa Novices' Hurdle
|Supreme Novices' Hurdle||Sky Bet||2018||£132,800|
|The Champion Hurdle||Unibet||2018||£442,665|
|The Cheltenham Gold Cup||Boodles||2022||£614,813|
|The Stayers' Hurdle||Paddy Power||2020||£319,703|
Turners Novices' Chase
The Golden Miller Novices' Chase
Ultima Handicap Chase
Festival Trophy Handicap Chase
|Weatherbys Champion Bumper||Weatherbys||1997||£78,696|
Race Sponsors Other Cheltenham Races
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
Bristol Novices' Hurdle
|Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase||Andy Stewart||£15,838|
|Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase||Celotex||£25,463|
Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices' Chase
November Novices' Chase
Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle
The Classic Novices' Hurdle
|Ballymore Maiden Hurdle||Ballymore||£19,674|
|Ballymore Novices Hurdle||Ballymore||£19,674|
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
The Hyde Novices' Hurdle
|British EBF National Hunt Novices' Hurdle||EBF||£14,754|
|Catesby Handicap Hurdle||Catesby Estates PLC||£20,768|
|Cleeve Hurdle||Dahlbury Stallions At Chapel Stud||£68,621|
|Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle||Markel Insurance||£15,849|
|Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle||888 Sport||£15,849|
Cross Country Handicap Chase
|Cross Country Handicap Chase||Glenfarclas||£34,430|
|December Gold Cup Handicap Chase||AIS||£127,881|
|December Handicap Chase||Dahlbury||£68,859|
|December Mares' Handicap Hurdle||Molson Coors||£29,511|
|Dipper Novices’ Chase||Paddy Power||£54,104|
|EBF Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase||EBF Thoroughbred Breeders' Association||£43,664|
|Fillies' Juvenile Handicap Hurdle||Junior Jumpers Membership||£39,348|
|Greatwood Handicap Hurdle||Unibet||£98,370|
|Handicap Chase||Lycetts Insurance Brokers||£29,511|
|Handicap Chase||Paddy Power||£49,185|
|Handicap Chase||888 Sport||£59,022|
|Handicap Hurdle||Paddy Power||£29,511|
|Handicap Hurdle||Abu Dhabi||£16,150|
|Handicap Hurdle||Cheltenham Pony Racing Authority||£14,755|
|Handicap Hurdle||Paddy Power||£24,593|
|Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier)||Pertemps||£24,593|
|Intermediate Handicap Hurdle||Paddy Power||£24,702|
|JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle||JCB||£24,593|
JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
Finesse Juvenile Novices' Hurdle
JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Novices' Hurdle
The Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle
|Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle||Kingston Stud||£24,594|
|Maiden Hurdle||Foundation Developments Ltd||£14,753|
|Mares' Handicap Chase||CF Roberts Electrical + Mechanical Services||£21,164|
|Mares' Handicap Chase||Sporting Agenda||£19,674|
|Mares' Handicap Chase||Montpellier Town House||£23,473|
|Mares' Handicap Hurdle||Catesby Estates PLC||£29,511|
|Mares' Novices' Hurdle||bearrene.com||£24,258|
|Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||Stirrups Restaurant Evesham||£24,593|
|Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||Spreadex||£14,755|
|Masterson Holdings Hurdle||Masterson Holdings||£38,752|
New Year's Day Handicap Chase
Fairlawne Handicap Chase
|Nicholson Holman Novices' Chase||Arkells Brewery||£17,215|
|Novices' Chase||Jim Wilson||£21,978|
|Novices' Handicap Chase||Timeform||£29,511|
|Novices' Handicap Hurdle||Valada Energy||£15,849|
|Novices' Limited Handicap Chase||Cheltenham & South-West Racing Club||£13,814|
|Novices' Limited Handicap Chase||SSS Super Alloys||£30,211|
|Novices' Limited Handicap Chase||888 Sport||£15,106|
|October Handicap Chase||888 Sport||£59,022|
|Paddy Power Gold Cup||Paddy Power||£157,662|
|Relkeel Hurdle||Dornan Engineering||£68,859|
The Cheltenham Chase
|Showcase Novices' Hurdle||888 Sport||£15,740|
|Silver Trophy Chase||Ceres Estates||£68,621|
|SSS Super Alloys Handicap Hurdle||SSS Super Alloys||£29,511|
|Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire||£24,593|
|Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||Royal Gloucestershire Hussars||£14,756|
|Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||JCB||£24,593|
Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle
The Sharp Novices' Hurdle
|Trial Cotswold Chase||Paddy Power||£116,845|
|Trophy Handicap Chase||Paddy Power||£98,370|
|Unibet International Hurdle||Unibet||£137,718|
|Veterans' Handicap Chase||Glenfarcas||£34,430|
|Weatherite Handicap Chase||Weatherite||£29,511|
What Race Sponsorship Entails
Each racecourse around the country will have its own benefits and packages available to sponsors, so Cheltenham is no exception. The biggest difference for Prestbury Park compared to many other countries is that the races that tend to be on offer for those that are watching, either on TV or in person, are some of the most famous in jump racing. Whilst the Grand National is obviously a much-loved race in the UK and around the world, the reality is that it is only the ‘World’s Greatest Steeplechase’ that most people tune in to watch.
With the Cheltenham Festival, there is barely a race that won’t have a massive audience. Though the bumpers and other events at the end of the racing day are less appealing, which is why the main broadcaster tends not to show them, they are still respected races that those in the industry take extremely seriously. For this reason, it is worth exploring what it is that sponsoring a race during Festival week actually entails. In short, it depends on the race being sponsored and the package that the sponsoring company has opted for, with many different ones on offer.
That is to say, there is obviously a difference between a company choosing to sponsor the final race on the second day of the meeting and sponsoring the Gold Cup. Consequently, it is common for those sponsoring the biggest races to have to pay more for the privilege, but also to get more bang for their buck. The racing industry is worth £3.45 Billion, so it is hardly a surprise that companies want to be associated with it. For the Jockey Club, which owns Cheltenham Racecourse, working with a partner is a chance to put their name front and centre.
As Carey Weeks, the South West’s Regional Head of Partnerships for the Jockey Club puts it,
“Creating the Partnership is not just about placing your brand name against a race, it’s about building a relationship between two businesses, utilising a wealth of experience and ensuring your brand is at the forefront of people’s minds.”
In other words, sponsoring a race during the Cheltenham Festival is a two-way street, in which the racecourse gains and the sponsor also benefits, so it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the sponsorship is as successful as possible all of the time.
What’s In It For The Sponsors?
It is easy enough to understand that sponsors of races during the Cheltenham Festival get exposure. For the biggest races, they get them either named after the company or else run in association with it. It is quite common, for example, for people to refer to the Spa Novices’ Hurdle simply as ‘the Albert Bartlett’. For the vegetable supply company, that is publicity that money can’t buy. There is so much more than just the brand association that is relevant for sponsors, though. The cameras at the course are positioned carefully to ensure that the sponsor’s name is always in shot, for example.
With nearly 500,000 people visiting Cheltenham Racecourse each year specifically for the Festival and close to four million television viewers, it is easy to see why such things can matter to sponsors. The fact that there is also an affiliation with the Jockey Club thanks to the sponsorship also helps, as does the international reach that is boasted by the Festival. Then there are the added benefits away from the track that will be hugely appealing to the majority of clients that are likely to get involved with the Cheltenham Festival. These are the likes of:
- Client events
- Adverts on the big screen
- Mentions on the social media of the Jockey Club
- Adverts in racecards
- An appearance in the Festival Preview Magazine
- Product sampling and promotional staff
- Links on the Jockey Club’s website
- Banners on the racecourse
All of this is best summed up by the words of Charles Hamer, the Director of Racing for Pol Roger’s portfolio, who said,
“Not only does sponsorship deliver excellent brand exposure and client entertaining opportunities but also, since the start of our sponsorship of the Glenfarclas Cross Country series, we have seen an average 40% growth in turnover per annum.”
Words that would doubtless appeal to most companies that consider sponsoring a race that is due to run during the Cheltenham Festival.
Similar words were said by the Chairman of Ultima, Max McNeil, who said,
“Ultima, both in terms of profile and brand awareness, has benefitted enormously from its association with Cheltenham.”
To put it another way, companies that have had long associations with the Cheltenham Festival have found it to be a hugely beneficial connection for their business, which has paid dividends in the long-run. All of which helps to explain why high-end companies such as Bentley, Boodles and the Close Brothers continue to sponsor events during Festival week.
How Much Does It Cost?
In reality, it is very difficult to find out how much sponsorship costs for companies, not least of all because it is an ever-moving target. For example, Boodles sponsored the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in 2018 in a move that will have cost the jewellery company a not insignificant amount of money. The company has reached an agreement to sponsor the Gold Cup for the 2022 running of the event, but the deal to do so might well have cost them less than four years earlier for a lesser event on account of the lack of competition.
For this year’s Festival, the Jockey Club was struggling to find sponsors after the 2020 renewal was considered to be something of a super-spreader event. The lack of immediate and obvious sponsors will have made it easier for Boodles to negotiate a cheaper price for its sponsorship of the Gold Cup, even though it is a blue riband event and one of the most-watched races in the world. After all, if no other companies are fighting for the right to sponsor it, that reduces the negotiation ability of the race organisers.
Such was the problem with sponsorship, in fact, that the Jockey Club reached an agreement with WellChild in 2021, allowing the charity to associate its name with the biggest event in jump racing for free. The shorthand way of working out how much an event is likely to have cost to sponsor is by looking at the prize money on offer. The higher the prize money, the more that a sponsor is likely to have paid to be associated with the event, given that prize money is usually indicative of a race’s importance and prestige.
Cheltenham’s Long-Term Sponsors
There are a number of companies that have had a long-term association with the Cheltenham Festival. For differing reasons and with links to varying races, the companies have sponsored something at Prestbury Park every year for a long time, becoming almost synonymous with the events that they’ve sponsored.
We have already mentioned Albert Bartlett, but there are other examples of businesses that have enjoyed their association with the Festival. Here is a look at them all and an exploration of how long they’ve chosen to sponsor races:
The Novices’ Hurdle was added to the Cheltenham Festival roster in 2005 when the meeting was extended to include a fourth day. It was initially sponsored by Brit Insurance, but potato and vegetable producer Albert Bartlett took over sponsorship duties in 2009.
That was also the year that the race was upgraded to become a Grade 1 event, so it is fair to say that Albert Bartlett appreciate the link to quality. The following month, Albert Bartlett agreed a deal to sponsor Irish jockey Jamie Spencer for around £200,000.
In terms of volume, JCB is the third-largest manufacturer of construction equipment. The family-owned company sells more than 300 products to the construction and agricultural markets in more than 150 countries around the world, so its sponsorship of events at Cheltenham ensures that it is able to get its name and logo into the right eyes.
When the company took on sponsorship duties of the Triumph Hurdle in 2002, it was the first time that it had entered the horse race sponsoring market. At the time, it was the first race on the final day of the Festival.
The first involvement for Boodles with the Cheltenham Festival came about in 2014, which was when the company became the official sponsors of the Leading Jockey Award. In 2014. The company then began sponsoring the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle four years later.
Having ‘had a good year’, according to the company’s Managing Director Michael Wainright, Boodles then chose to sponsor the Gold Cup for the 2022 renewal. The announcement was made using the 2021 Champion Jockey, Rachael Blackmore, who wore a ring worth £66,000 to really drive home the point that they sell high-end jewellery.
If you were told that a whiskey company had agreed to sponsor a race at the Cheltenham Festival then you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was an Irish whiskey. In actual fact, Glenfarclas is based in the Ballindalloch area of Scotland, so the most strict of those that like a dram would tell you it is a whisky company.
Regardless, it has sponsored the Cross Country Handicap Chase since 2008, three years after it was added to the roster of events taking place during Festival week. That deal has been renewed year after year since, meaning that it remains a major sponsor.
In 2005, the Cheltenham Festival was extended to include a fifth day. As part of that, new races were added to the meeting, one of which was the Festival Trophy. Initially a Grade 2 event, it was sponsored by the Daily Telegraph for the very first running. In 2006 Ryanair took over sponsorship, becoming the Festival’s first official carrier.
Since then, its name has been so closely associated with it that few racegoers would be able to tell you the race’s non-sponsored name. It has been a Grade 1 event since 2008 and Ryanair’s association shows no sign of ending.
In terms of long-term sponsors of races, you don’t get much longer-term than Coral. When the Coral Cup was first added to the meeting in 1993 it was sponsored by Coral and it has been sponsored by the bookmaker ever since.
It makes complete sense for bookies to be involved in horse racing sponsorship, of course, and there is little doubt that Coral have made back far more money through taking bets from punters that it has ever spent on its sponsorship arrangement, so all parties will be delighted by the association between them.
Speaking of bookmakers that sponsor events that are run during the Cheltenham Festival, there are few as sensible as the arrangement between Paddy Power and Prestbury Park. Even ignoring the associated alliteration, the Irish absolutely adore the Festival, turning up in their thousands every year.
For an Irish bookmaker to be involved with sponsoring races therefore makes complete sense. Paddy Power don’t just sponsor races run during Festival week, either. The bookie is also responsible for sponsoring races run during other Cheltenham meetings, such as the New Year’s Day one.
The Grade 1 Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle was first run in 1971, taking sponsorship from Sun Alliance insurance three years later. That association ended in 2006, which was the point at which the property group Ballymore Properties came on board as a sponsor. T
here was an eight-year gap for the company between 2010 and 2017, with Neptune Investment Management taking over, but Ballymore resumed sponsorship in 2018. As with some other races, the event is known to most people simply as the Ballymore, irrespective of which company is actually sponsoring it.
Merchant banking group Close Brothers has enjoyed a relationship with horse racing for some years, not just at Cheltenham but also the likes of the Grand National and the Derby. Indeed, Sir A.P. McCoy is a brand ambassador for the company, showing you how much the sport matters.
The official partner of the Jockey Club began sponsoring the Novices’ Handicap Chase in 2016, but in 2020 they decided to switch over the the Mares’ Hurdle. That race had been run at the Festival since 2008, taking on its association with the merchant bankers for the foreseeable future.
In 2018, the Pertemps Final was raised from being a Listed race to a Grade 3 one and then changed to a Premier Handicap. Having been run since 1974, that was quite a big change for the event. Having had various sponsor since 1993, the association with Pertemps began in 2002 and has remained in place since.
The recruitment company has obviously enjoyed its sponsorship, having decided to renew the deal in 2016. In actual fact, it isn’t just the one race that takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse that is sponsored by Pertemps, but a series of them that culminates in the Final during Festival week.
It goes without saying that the association between Weatherbys and horse racing goes far beyond Cheltenham. The company became responsible for the General Stud Book in 1791 and it has remained the responsibility of the family bank ever since.
In 1997, the company took over sponsorship duties of the Champion Bumper, which had enjoyed deals with the likes of Tote and Guinness in the preceding years. That sponsorship deal has remained in place ever since, proving that even some of the least interesting races remain worthwhile of sponsorship from the right companies.