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The Power of Media and Membership: US Equestrian Taps into its Base with Effective Marketing

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Jan 9, 2019, 10:37 PM EST

Each day, the media landscape constantly changes and evolves, which is affecting the way US Equestrian interacts with its members. The US Equestrian marketing department is on the front lines of this climate, making sure to stay on top of trends to grow its membership and base. US Equestrian marketing staff, including Andrea Evans, Director, Social and Video Content, Taylor Rea, Manager, Membership Engagement, and Jamie Unseld, Senior Director, USEF Network and Operations, took the opportunity to discuss their 2018 success during “The Power of Media and Membership” panel at the US Equestrian Annual Meeting on Wednesday. In addition, the audience heard from Caroline Roche, Manager of Social Media and Marketing of Equestrian Sport Productions, who shared high-points from the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) Tryon 2018, and Preston McClellan, Senior Manager of Branding and Marketing at the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour, who provided insight to their marketing achievements.

Panelists part of The Power of Media and Membership from left to right: Preston McClellan, Caroline Roche, and Jamie Unseld (Taylor Pence/US Equestrian)

Social Media

Since the launch of the US Equestrian strategic plan in 2017, US Equestrian has experienced an uptick of engagement on its social media channels. Evans explained that much of this momentum derived from curating relevant content to the right audiences. Across the two-year span, the social media team created specific Facebook pages dedicated to US Equestrian disciplines with a team focus, such as USA Driving or USA Vaulting. This has paid dividends in increased engagement. In addition, they initiated #MemberMonday, promoting US Equestrian members, and mixed the amount of curated and created content. Over the course of 2018, the social media team posted across its panels over 4,300 times, resulting in 75 million impressions and 14 million video views, with over one-quarter of the 4,300 posts dissemintated during the FEI WEG Tryon 2018.

E-Mail Marketing

The marketing department has increased its e-mail marketing focus as a means to engage US Equestrian members and increase subscribers. Specifically, it targets members and subscribers based on several factors such as 

  • Breed or discipline;
  • Membership status;
  • Demographics;
  • Previous engagement with content, and
  • Member preferences

Rea outlined the jump in e-mail engagement, which she achieved by targeting the right audiences with dynamic content specifically catered to their interests and the previous e-mails they opened. Since the implementation of the strategic plan, there has been a

  • 131% growth in subscribers
  • 33% in open rates, and 
  • 46% increase in click to open rates

The positive numbers trace back to dependable analytics, designed to measure the impact and readership of each e-mail, prioritizing specific content, and packaging it in an aesthetically pleasing and functional manner. In addition, the marketing department began implementing newsletters for many of the US Equestrian national championships in 2018, which engaged media and members through results, photos, competition information, social media posts, and USEF Network live stream information. In 2018, US Equestrian’s top performing e-mail corresponded to the SafeSport initiative, reminding adult, competing members, 18 years of age and older, of their SafeSport training requirement.

USEF Network

The evolution of the USEF Network became a priority because of the strategic plan. It was redesigned as a member value platform, producing content that members want to experience. Unseld explained that since the inception of this model, viewership has remained steady.  In 2018, they expanded content around the event, such as rider interviews, as a method to enhance the livestream experience.

FEI WEG Tryon 2018 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center

Roche was responsible for social media and content promoting the FEI WEG Tryon 2018. Across the 13-day event, the FEI WEG Tryon 2018 resulted in 4.7 million U.S. unique viewers during its NBC broadcast. Roche said that the disciplines of vaulting, driving, and reining performed better than widely known disciplines such as jumping, dressage, and eventing because it was unique content. They were able to increase their engagement across all disciplines, and they still use the Tryon2018 accounts as a way to promote the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

Lessons from the PGA Tour 

With all its achievement, the US Equestrian marketing department realizes there is an opportunity to learn more and become better. During the panel discussion, McClellan, offered insight into the PGA Tour marketing initiatives. Specifically, he detailed the success of the athlete engagement and influence marketing program, in which he is responsible for distributing content aimed at empowering PGA Tour athletes to post mutually beneficial content. 

Watch The Power of Media and Membership panel in its entirety on the USEFNetwork

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