The 2014 Grand National will be a record-breaking event, even before hooves grace the Aintree turf. Thanks to Crabbie’s signing a deal to become the new sponsors of the big race, taking over from John Smith’s, the purse has surpassed the £1 million mark for the first time in its illustrious history. Article by Josh Bradely
It had previously flirted with the figure, reaching £975,000 in 2012 and 2013 under the sponsorship of John Smith’s. However, with the extra push from Crabbie’s it is now comfortably the richest jumps race in Europe.
The new deal means that Crabbie’s becomes the fourth sponsor of the race, following on from the originator Seagram, its then subsidiary Martell and John Smith’s.
Seagram distillers originally became sponsors of the Aintree showpiece back in 1984 when the future of the race was still hanging in the balance. Their financial backing allowed the racecourse to be sold from Bill Davies to be run and managed by the Jockey Club Racecourses (formerly known as Racecourse Owners Trust); giving the race much needed stability.
Then Seagram UK Chairman, Ivan Straker, was to thank for the generous sponsorship, after reading a passionate piece by racing journalist and former jockey, Lord Oaksey. His powerful and evocative piece meant that Straker felt the race deserved a sponsor to match its rich heritage and ensure its survival in the long-term.
The sponsorship ran from 1984-1991, and the final race was won by the very aptly named Seagram, who Straker had the chance to buy on several occasions before the race, but turned it down. He handed the sponsorship over to his companies’ subsidiary, Martell, who secured a contract worth £4 million over seven years.
The success of the Grand National during their seven-year sponsorship, meant they decided to sign another seven-year deal, taking their sponsorship to 14-years, which today is an unusually long amount of time for one brand to have with one event. This proves just how successful the sponsorship was for both parties, and when news broke of the sponsorship ending in 2005, with Martell deciding they needed to focus on gaining coverage in Asia and Ireland now, it wasn’t too long before John Smith’s had leapt in and managed to secure a partnership that would go on to last for eight years.
They had been involved with racing for many years, but when John Smith’s saddled up with Aintree and began their partnership for initial three-years, they became the biggest financial supporter outside of the sport. The contract was continually extended, until 2013 when they decided it was in their best interests not to renew their contact, and allow a new sponsor to come and sponsor the ‘jewel in their racing crown’, as Mark Given, the Brands Director of Heineken UK, had previously called it.
They revolutionised the way the Grand National was thought of in the racing world, taking the prize money from £600,000 in 2004, to £975,000 only nine years later when they left, making it the richest jumps race in Europe, and ensuring the popularity amongst the general public as-well as within the racing world.
Their continued support was a massive factor in the growth of the Grand National, and managed to help their own business stay in the limelight. This has led in Crabbie’s to help continue the legacy of the race, and continue the growth of the Aintree feature among the general public.
It is not solely one way success, as Crabbie’s are arriving at the right time to capitalise on the success of the race in previous years. For their sponsorship, Crabbie’s are now able to reach a UK terrestrial television audience of around nine million, with the potential of over 600 million people worldwide tuning in for the big race.
The company is owned by Halewood International, whose love affair with the Grand National started in 2004 when Amberleigh House ran home winner, owned by the company itself. So it’s very apt that only ten years later the brand will have such a big influence over the race and the entire meeting, having naming rights attached to three races, the Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, the Crabbie’s Topham Chase and the Crabbie’s Grand National.
Peter Eaton Senior, Deputy Chairman of Halewood International has shown the drive and ambition that echoes just how much he values the big race; “The countdown to the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival 2014 has truly begun. It has always been the family’s ambition to sponsor the race and all of us at Halewood International and Crabbie’s are delighted to be part of the excitement, the drama and the thrill of the World’s greatest steeplechase.”
The Grand National itself received a bumper 115 entries, which is substantially higher than the 83 horses in 2013 and 82 horses in 2012. The reason attributed to this, is the lure of the £1m prize pool for the first time in the races 175 year history, which means with the boost injected by Crabbie’s, the race has received its highest number of entries in five years.
The future looks bright in the hands of the Crabbie’s and Eaton Senior is hopeful it will be a beneficial for both parties, for years to come. “The Grand National is a unique race with massive global reach and represents a perfect partnership for Crabbie’s and our UK and international ambitions. The brand is already enjoying considerable success in the USA, Canada and Australia and is the number one bottled ale in the UK and from a company and family perspective; we are delighted to renew our longstanding relationship with Aintree.”
The meeting is scheduled from Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th of April, and a big crowd is expected once more, with over 154,000 visitors over the three days being envisaged.