Written by: Nicole Kitchener

10 free (or nearly free) ways to promote your equestrian event.

Thumbnail for Event Marketing on A Budget

Pam MacKenzie Photo

You’re hosting an upcoming show, fundraiser, clinic, or other type of equine event and need to get the word out. However, your marketing budget is so tight it’s actually nonexistent. Luckily, there are several no- or low-cost technological and traditional approaches that can help you promote your event.

DIGITAL STRATEGIES

1. Websites work
If your barn or facility already has a website, use this ready-made real estate to post details about your show or happening, clearly outlining the who, what, why, and where, either on the home page, a dedicated event page, or even better, both.

For a one-off type affair such as a charity fundraiser, set up a free professional-looking event-specific website in no time using a platform such as Wix and SiteBuilder (see top10bestwebsitebuilders.com).

2. Email blasts
Studies show email campaigns can attract a lot of attention. The British Columbia therapeutic riding organization Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities (PRDA) in Langley and Vancouver hosts a two-day horse show and various fundraisers throughout the year. “We start by doing group emails to our riders and their families and to our volunteers, says Karen Swantje, sponsorship organizer. With students in 180 lessons a week, plus staff and 150 volunteers, emails land in a ton of inboxes.

Create a clear but captivating subject line containing words that distinguish your message from the rest. (The word ‘horse’ might be a good starting point!) Keep email content crisp and clean by using short paragraphs and/or bullet points.

Be sure you have permission to email the people on your list. If you use electronic channels to promote or market your organization, products, or services, Canada’s new anti-spam law may affect you (fightspam.gc.ca).

3. Facebook is your friend
PRDA’s next step? “To broaden our reach, each of us uses our Facebook accounts,” says Karen.

Of all the social media networks available, Facebook, with 1.7 billion users, stands as the king of free promotion. If your business or organization already has a page, post event details, photos and videos on a regular basis, or create a specific Facebook “event” page. Ask friends and followers to like and share your page and posts. Also, make sure to cross-post to equine or community Facebook groups.

4. #hashtagsareimportant
Create a hashtag (e.g. #horsesportshow2018). Use it when posting on Facebook or other social media networks – Twitter, Instagram, or Linkedin, for example. A good hashtag can help spread buzz about your event, make it easier for people to search for and share information, and allow you to track online mentions.

5. Piggy-back promotion
Tag onto someone else’s newsletter or information outreach for free publicity.

“We are very lucky to have an active and involved provincial body, Horse Council BC,” says Karen, who regularly takes advantage of the council’s public relations tool. “Their monthly newsletter, sent to all members electronically or via snail mail, features an upcoming events section.” Even if an organization charges for space in their newsletter, the cost is usually low or you may be able to work out a trade.

6. Under the influencers
Connect with popular equine and community bloggers and podcasters and social media ambassadors – industry influencers, as they’re called – and ask them (shamelessly) to feature your event.

TRADITIONAL STRATEGIES

7. Make-it-yourself materials
Tried-and-true promotional techniques are often just as (or more) effective than digital strategies. One of the oldest and easiest methods to get information to the right people is by distributing self-produced flyers, brochures, and/or posters at tack shops, barns, or other horse shows or events. You don’t have to create graphic-design masterpieces as long as the materials are clearly and concisely written and include a couple of pictures for colour and interest.

8. Don’t be shy
Word of mouth remains one of the key marketing tools available, so chat up your event and get your barn-mates, friends, and family members to do the same.

Joe Ifko, long-time show jumper, Equestrian Canada competition coach and trainer, annually hosts a series of hunter-jumper shows at his Paramount Equestrian Centre in Dewinton, AB. Show schedules, prize lists, and entry forms are posted on the barn’s website and links are posted on Facebook, but “Joe also takes the prize books to other horse shows,” says Justine, Joe’s wife and Paramount’s office manager. This gives him the opportunity to talk directly to a prime target group – competitors, parents, trainers, etc.

9. Mail isn’t dead yet
Especially in a niche demographic like the horse industry, direct mail is also a good way to reach the right individuals. With fewer letters littering mailboxes, a mail-out might get more attention than it would have in years past.

Paramount’s Justine says, “Sometimes we mail the prize book to all the previous participants. Then they have a hard copy. Joe thinks people like to receive them on paper, because everyone gets so many emails now.”

10. Old-school media
Most local radio and television stations feature free community service segments. Contact the station well ahead of time, as these spots generally go fast. (A tip for on-camera appearances: nothing beats an actual horse on site to attract viewers’ attention.)

Likewise, newspapers and local publications are usually keen to include information about area events in “what’s on” sections. Writing up and sending a press release containing your event’s details might sound daunting, but there’s a lot of helpful information online on how to put one together. Be sure to include a high-quality photo or two – small local papers are always looking for free content.