‘I don’t ride, but I know how to sell a ticket’ – Life as Olympia’s marketing and projects director *H&H Plus*

  • Jo Peck shares details on her varied and often fast-paced job, including the highs and lows, near-misses and mistakes, in a role that encompasses helping to deliver successful shows like Olympia

    I don’t ride – I was never bitten by the bug – but I have a job horsey people would die for. When I’m asked how on earth I ended up marketing events such as Olympia and Royal Windsor Horse Show, my answer is that I know how to sell a ticket. My job is about delivering the audience.

    After I left university, I was recruited by an exhibition organiser. My first job was on a woodworking trade show. It was dull beyond belief. Swiftly I moved into a marketing role for contemporary art fairs, one in Los Angeles, the other in London, which was great fun.

    I gained a diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and then became marketing manager at Clarion Events for the London Motor Show. Pregnant with my third child, I left Clarion and moved to the country. That was when Simon Brooks-Ward at HPower heard I was in the market for freelance work.

    I became a full-time employee about 15 years ago. The marketing department is a team of three and we do all the marketing and media management for HPower events. We worked on nine events in 2019, including for the military and Government, organising the D-Day commemorations.

    We work with agencies to develop a marketing strategy – website, advertising, direct mail, e-marketing, PR and social media – and appoint and manage the box office, if required. We analyse ticket sales constantly and tweak campaigns to meet targets.

    At events, I manage the media centre, where I am joined by a team of experts in their own fields, often journalists, some of whom have worked on the shows longer than I have – and I’ve done 17 years. We look after all the media – from journalists and photographers to TV news teams and documentary makers – and organise press conferences.

    A lot of content is put out on social media: interviews with top riders, backstage tours, photos of exciting moments, clips of winning rounds and much more. It’s my job to support everyone, including the many volunteers.

    We’ve missed being at the events this year. I love the first day. It’s like a grand reunion every time. It’s always incredibly busy. Challenges come at you left, right and centre; you have to think on your feet and trust your team.

    We work hard and play hard. There’s a lot of fun to be had in an organiser’s office and there’s always someone with a story to tell of another near miss. You can be in the office before 7am and not leave until midnight. They are long, hard days, but also great fun – you live on adrenaline and chocolate.

    Loads of things can go wrong, like printing the wrong date for Olympia on 4,000 car stickers.

    When you run equestrian events, accidents happen and it’s always terribly difficult. We have firm protocols in place to deal with them. One moment that sticks with me is the show vet’s reaction when one of the Barcelona mounted police horses had to be put down at Olympia some years ago. The vet was overwhelmed by the rider’s sadness.

    Immediately after a show, we analyse the sales, media and social media coverage. We also undertake visitor surveys. This helps form our strategy for the following year. When we get back to the office after Christmas, we start planning the next Olympia, ready for the ticket sales in April.

    The whole marketing process has completely changed with the advent of digital and online marketing. The data that can be captured about our customers has grown extraordinarily, which gives us much better knowledge of their profiles and behaviours. It’s all very Big Brother, but very useful.

    Covid-19 has changed everything, too. We cancelled Windsor and Olympia and we’re working from home and Zooming. I miss the team camaraderie. We’ve had to adapt and overcome as well as learn new skills, particularly on the digital and social media side.

    We’ve run two virtual Windsor Horse Shows now, which I’m proud of. It’s pushed us in a different direction. Stand by for news on what we’re up to for Olympia this year!

    ● As told to Leslie Bliss

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 November 2020

    You may also be interested in: