The Jockey Club
It seems there is no stopping the English wine industry. Coates and Seely are now providing their English sparkling wines to The Jockey Club for it's races. We contacted James Tombs to find out more about The Jockey Club's unparalleled history when it comes to racing.
Hi James, could you provide some background on yourself and your role with The Jockey club?
My role as Group Sponsorship Manager with The Jockey Club involves the acquisition of brand partnerships which span the organisation, year round, and to manage the delivery of the commercial and marketing rights that form the agreement. I have been with The Jockey Club for five years and prior to that I had worked in the sports marketing industry for 15 years across Formula One and the World Rally Championship, as well as the British governing bodies for the Olympic sports of Basketball and Triathlon.
The Jockey Club has the phrase: ‘For the thrill of it’ as the motto on your website. What does this mean to you and racing fans?
I think that it reflects the excitement of a day at the races. We know that we attract both fanatical racing fans but a large percentage of our two million raceday customers are there for the social aspect and thrill that comes from a great day out with friends and the opportunity to win back the cost of their ticket!
Could you sum up how the Jockey Club has been involved with wine to date?
The Jockey Club has worked hard over the last 10 years through Jockey Club Catering - our joint venture with Compass - to constantly evolve and improve the customer offering when it comes to our hospitality and restaurant experiences. By working closely together we have been able to forge strong relationships across the food and beverage sectors to deliver enhanced brand experiences and greater choice and quality for our ever more discerning and informed racegoers. We recognise that they have significant choice within a competitive leisure sector vying for their business. Historically we have worked with Bibendum and Enotria as important routes to market for supplying the range of wines that we have required, but there is also scope for brands like Coates & Seely to partner with The Jockey Club to ensure that there are additional marketing and promotional benefits to the supply of their product to the racecourses. Exclusivity within brand categories and sectors has further enabled us to work in partnership to deliver outstanding experiences and results for both customer and brand.
How did the new partnership with Coates and Seely come about?
Coates & Seely recognised the broad appeal of horseracing in the UK and the demographic that it attracts year round. They were keen to reach out to this audience and demonstrate the quality of their English Sparkling Wine. They also wanted to challenge any preconceptions that may exist whilst naturally increasing the distribution of their wines for commercial benefit. They approached us and the conversation grew from there.
Why do you decide to align yourself with Coates & Seely?
They have a tremendous narrative which has real appeal to The Jockey Club as product provenance begins to play a bigger role in our consideration of what we should be delivering for our customers. They really are fantastic wines and already challenging, and surpassing in some cases, some of the great Champagne houses.
Have you tried many English wines?
Admittedly my personal experience is not that broad yet but I have been incredibly impressed by Coates & Seely. It’s fair to say I’m now more aware of English wines generally and keen to give more of them a go!
Do you have a racing story that you would like to share with us?
With my job I’m fortunate to be able to head down to the paddock before or after a race where you’re often stood shoulder to shoulder with racing’s most famous trainers, jockeys and even owners. The look on people’s faces and their wide-eyed expressions when I take them down to the parade ring and they can literally hear a trainer’s last minute instructions to a jockey like Frankie Dettori is priceless. If I worked for the FA or the RFU I couldn’t take my guests down to see Gareth Southgate or Eddie Jones’s team talks!
This quote is from your website: ‘With corridors travelled by historical legends, reception rooms enjoyed by royalty and dining rooms overlooked by equine masterpieces, The Jockey Club Rooms truly is a place like no other.’ – Can you tell me more about the historical legends and Royalty that have attended The Jockey Club?
The Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket is an amazing place with an unparalleled history when it comes to racing. It’s where horseracing as we know it was born in the 1700s and the artwork and artefacts on display there are practically a museum, so I never take spending time there for granted. As for our venues and racecourses we are constantly hosting members of the Royal Family who love their racing, including our Patron Her Majesty The Queen, who owns several racehorses in training. The Duchess of Cornwall also recently became the patron of The National Stud, the breeding arm of The Jockey Club in Newmarket, and is a regular visitor to the Cheltenham Festival in March. The great thing about our sport is that these members of the Royal Family and many other high profile personalities enjoy a day at the races just as much as regular racegoers and families bringing their children for the first time. While historically people may have referred to it as the ‘Sport of Kings’, a day at the races really is for everybody.
Do you have a favourite wine to drink?
I can’t say that I do. I’m lucky that I get to attend a lot of events, both sporting and otherwise, through my current and previous commercial and sponsorship roles. It is fair to say that I’m no connoisseur but that as a regular consumer it is always a welcome addition to many an occasion and there are too many stories to recall as a result. I did however spend time in South Africa during my early childhood and fell in love with the country, returning for my honeymoon some years later. Visiting Stellenbosch was fantastic and I do remember vividly enjoying a lovely Chenin Blanc with my wife overlooking the vast expanse of vineyards and feeling pretty happy with life!
Can you tell me more about the ‘historical legends and royalty’ that have attended The Jockey Club?
It is said that Her Majesty The Queen makes sure that The Investec Derby is the first social engagement in her incredibly packed diary every year. I believe that she has missed this famous and Classic Flat race only once during her reign. She has a passion for horses and is our patron. I can’t say that we’ve been introduced but it is a real thrill when she arrives at Epsom Downs Racecourse on Derby Day and it is great to see and experience the warm welcome she always attracts.
What plans does the Jockey Club have for the future?
I’m lucky to be able say that I work for an organisation which was founded in 1750 and is therefore steeped in history but is also progressive and constantly looking for ways to evolve. The work we have done already to engage more people more often with our digital content to help raise awareness of horse racing and our events is only going to grow and The Jockey Club is currently working on some exciting plans to build the brand and make it even more relevant to an increasing number of people. Personally I’m excited about the projects we are working on with existing and new partners to ensure they’re very much part of The Jockey Club and our events, not just names on signage or our website.