A plane ride home was the perfect time to think back over the time spent in France learning the behind-the-scenes of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. The trip achieved its goal of providing a sense of what the event’s schedule would be like, the timeframe, the distances from venue to venue, the accommodations, the goals and so much more.
It gave the 10 journalists who attended a bird-s-eye view of what to expect in less than a year when the Games opens to the world on August 23rd for 15 days of competition ending on September 7th, when new champions will be named in eight disciplines.
Those disciplines include Show Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Reining, Vaulting, Driving, Endurance and Para-Dressage.
We had a chance to view either from the inside or the outside all of the venues. That helped us understand how far we would be traveling daily via the media shuttle and if there would be the opportunity to cover more than one discipline at a time when multiple disciplines were being showcased.
While many of the venues in Caen are close together, in most cases it still would require waiting for and riding in a shuttle to get from one to the other. For Endurance and Eventing the venues are hours apart and so on those days you will be spending a few hours traveling back and forth.
We did learn that the timeframe was expected to be generally from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening, which we welcomed because of all the additional hours we’d have to spend downloading photos and writing our stories.
In the past there have been Games that started earlier in the morning or ended late in the evening which makes it very difficult to finish your work at any kind of a reasonable hour.
We had a chance to meet some of the key Alltech and Games staff and learned who the various point people are so we now know who to reach out to for our questions. Those questions include accommodations, deadlines for payment and internet access not only at the venues and in the press centers but also in the hotels.
They also included the size of lockers, the availability and pricing of food, the information stream (timely orders, maps and results) as well as the rooms set aside for the working media and press conferences. In addition the photographers had questions about accessibility. While it is too soon to have some of these questions answered our hope now is that by knowing the proper contact we can reach out to them as the Games get closer.
Knowledgeable people have been put in appropriate positions and in most cases they’ve had experience dealing with large events that require attention to details. The head overseer of the games is Fabien Grobon. His background includes marketing of sports events worldwide. Hopefully that will give him the insight to understand the needs of the media and provide them with what they need on all levels.
In addition, thanks to Alltech we have a sponsor that has been there and done that. As the title sponsor of the 2010 Alltech Kentucky World Equestrian Games they learned the hard way about what worked well and what didn’t. That meant that when they heard our concerns they too had experienced many of those same concerns. Yet as a sponsor they must maintain a sponsor profile and allow the media to explain their needs.
We must be the voice that resonates to the organizers in areas where we still have concerns. However, knowing Alltech can also relate to those concerns helps to strengthen our determination on ensuring that message is being heard by those who can make sure they are resolved.
There were many positives that we were thankful for including shuttles that will be available to the media at the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport to shuttle us the 2 ½ hours to Caen, where many of the journalists will be staying. While many of our concerns were addressed the one issue that we walked away still wondering about was whether or not we would be guaranteed good internet access in the hotels.
On some level the organizing committee gave the impression that their control covered the venue and anything connected with the venue but once the doors were closed for the night and the shuttles had safely dropped us off at our hotels all bets were off.
On the one hand we can understand why they might feel that way. Many of them don’t realize that often a bulk of our work takes place in the hotel and strong internet access can make the difference of how much sleep we get on any given night (and how pleasant we are the next day since tired journalists can get pretty cranky).
Yet, the good news is that our opinions were voiced and given to the right people and it appears that with almost a year to go there will be time to address those concerns along with the many other details that still need to happen.
Next year, in June, the test events take place for some of the sports, which will offer an additional opportunity for the organizing committee to test its setup. However, you never really know how things will work out until all the people and horses have arrived.
With 1200 media expected, close to 500,000 spectators, 1000 competitors and horses, and 3000 volunteers in addition to the staff, sponsors and guests, the true test is how well things are handled when something does not go as expected.
With all of that said we have a lot of faith in these seventh Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to be held in Normandy. They are sending a great message in that this is not just about the competition but about the entire experience.
The plan is to offer more than just the horse show but to inspire guests to savor the region and all it has to offer in culture, exquisite food and history.
What we also learned was that other sponsors need to take note of Alltech and how they are “activating” their sponsorship. They have created a template that others can learn from and much of what works and what doesn’t was learned from their sponsorship of the Games in Kentucky.
In Kentucky there were things that went well and things that did not, but at the end of the day despite some mistakes Alltech achieved more than its goals. Who in the horse world doesn’t recognize the name Alltech when it is mentioned? They have achieved that first step in that ladder of sponsorship. While there is still the need to ensure that the world knows what the company does, because of their global sponsorship, the name Alltech has become a household word in the horse world and beyond.
Even organizing this trip to give some of the world’s top journalists a chance to prepare in advance is just one more example of how well Alltech understands what it means to maximize the value of its sponsorship. While having a great sponsorship is key, making sure the word gets out is of the utmost importance.
Giving the media the tools they need to not only allow them to get their job done but to get them enthused about what a great event this will be is all part of ensuring a sponsorship works.
We learned a lot on this trip but probably what we learned that was most important was that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy draws no lines in the sand. It is for the young and young at heart, for the horse addicts and those who admire the horse. But it is more than that. You should come not only to enjoy the best horse sport in the world but also to savor a region of France that has much to offer. At the end of the day this is an event, an experience that anyone can enjoy and walk away with memories for a lifetime to come.
The organizing committee has organized a theme. They say it is 15 days of competition, 15 months of preparation and 15 years of a legacy, and this is one legacy you will want to be a part of.