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The 2014 bet365 Gold Cup meeting at Sandown Park was an unqualified success.

The event saw advanced bookings up, visitor numbers up, increased visitor satisfaction levels and a flurry of positive social media, but you may be surprised to know that the team at Sandown Park were both proud and concerned in equal measure. Understanding why they had these mixed emotions can help all of us to understand how we can all make brand alignment stick.

The bet365 Gold Cup was not just a great piece of event management, it was the output of a rigorous and considered brand alignment approach.

The team started with a deep exploration of the wants and motivations of their target audience. By sharing these findings, together with the reality of their commercial challenges, with the whole team they created a motivation to do something different. You could say there was real and visible pressure for change.

The team then created a compelling brand proposition for Sandown Park and tested it to ensure it would appeal to its specific London audience. This brand vision was not left in a PowerPoint deck but brought to life through making the bet365 Gold Cup a total customer experience. The customer journey was plotted and the brand used to envision how it should come to life for visitors and how they wanted them to feel at each point of the experience. The vision for change was crystal clear.

Converting the envisioned event into operational reality meant breaking the big task into specific bite sized actions across all aspects of operations, marketing and racing. The result was that the whole team were engaged in its delivery. They could get on and deliver practical changes in the knowledge that they were driven by a compelling brand vision. Actionable first steps made the whole thing feel practical and achievable.

Frustration will naturally come if you do not have the capacity to deliver the actions that you have clearly identified so finding the headroom to do things differently with a day job to manage was challenging. They introduced tracking tools, steering mechanisms and an event producer to help co-ordinate the actions and facilitate delivery. They eliminated things they couldn’t resource and focused on those they could. Through a few simple interventions they created the capacity to make the change.

So you can understand the pride but why the concerns? The concern is that the success of one important event does not build a brand. They worry about how to keep it going and become known for the brand they want to build. The answer, of course is in the learning;

1. Review the success of the first event but don’t lose sight of the market pressure.
2. Envision the next experience in the light of the compelling brand vision.
3. Develop the next set of aligned actions.
4. Use the tools and techniques that worked first time, make them more robust and introduce new ones if they need to.

It sounds simple but only a strong drive from the leadership team and a practical approach to match pressure, vision, action and capacity will enable this to happen.

The good news is that 3 major events later sees the business significantly ahead of last year’s financial performance with each event growing both commercially and in terms of customer satisfaction. Proving that there is good money to be made in irresistible customer experiences!

So now they are focused on to next driving improvements through a customer experience that delivers the brand where it makes a difference for customers.

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