Over the last few years there has been a major change in the sport of show jumping. Back in the days the big players in the sport was often thought to be european countries like Germany, France and Great Britain, plus the US. Compared to other popular sports around the world, show jumping has continued to be centered around Europe and north america, acting like a hegemony in bigger competitions like the olympic games and the world championships. At the olympic games in Rio though, we started to see numerous of countries taking up the battle for medals and getting quite far. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been very close to a medal, and individual competitors from countries like Argentina, Japan and Morocco have been climbing closer than ever to the top. A big reason for this is the competition market that have been increasing in both quality and quantity.
Show jumping is a sport that builds a lot on history and reputation, especially with the arenas where the competitions are taking place. Most of the big competitions in Europe have been connected to the ”World Cup” series that are held every year since the start in 1979. The World Cup is held in different leagues around the world, and it all ends in a nal where the approximately 45 best riders participate. The qualifiers for the final isn’t equally divided though. It is usually divided into 20 European riders, 15 from USA, 5 from Canada and 5 from the rest of the world. The reason for this is the quality difference among the leagues, where the European and the North American have been superior compared to their counterparts in the rest of the world. The European league which is the biggest one consist of 13 competitions around the european continent. They are often held in the same countries and arenas. For example here in Sweden, Scandinavium in Gothenburg arrange one of the World Cup competitions, and have held the cup final 13 times. These competitions are only held once a year and when they do, the competition organizers – of course – wants the very best to show up. This has often led to the fact that few people have been invited to the competitions, and those who have been is often from Europe and
the US. This leads to a select few who often are given the chance to compete at a very high standard, making them even better, while those who have been below them haven’t been able to. This lack of experience to compete against the top few create a gap between the competitors when they then finally meet at the Olympic games or the final in the world cup.
As I began with, there has now started a paradigm shift within the sport. One big reason for this is the ”Global Champions Tour” that was created by Jan Tops from the Netherlands in 2006. He is one of the most well known names in the show jumping community and has been a influential person for the last decades. His goal with this new tour was to increase the interest of media and act as a injection of fresh blood into the sport, as well as to increase the amount of prize money. The tour is held all around the globe on spectacular locations like the Eiffel Tower, on Miami Beach, the port in Monte Carlo and the city of Shanghai. The whole tour ends in Doha, Qatar in a specially built horse facility. In order to make this possible, new investors and wealthy people that might not have been interested in sponsoring the sport before hade to be made. Among the well known sponsors there is companies like Gucci, BMW, HSBC and Longines. The biggest and most interesting sponsor however is the country Qatar, whose riders Jan Tops is training. This collaboration has helped to broaden the sport into the Middle East region and have been contributing with new assets to the whole sport. The interest in the region has also been increased by the fact that the princess of Jordan Haya Bint Al Hussein was the leader of the ”International Federation for Equestrian Sports” between 2006-2014. As the interest has been growing in the region for the sport, so has their investment, such as new facilities and arenas for horses, as well as buying and breeding horses for their riders. The sport has gained a lot from this tour thanks to its locations in countries like Qatar and China, countries who hasn’t been exposed as much to the top raiders or arenas before. It has also helped to increase the standards of competitions around the world, because of the increasing amount of high quality competitions in different arenas. If its not good enough, the best riders aren’t interested to participate, and if they don’t show up then the big masses aren’t interested in going to the events. Another way in which the tour stands out is the amount of prize money that are received at each competitions. The winner of the tour-class at each location gets around 130 000 Euro, and the total winner of the whole tour gets roughly 294 000 Euro. These amounts of price money haven’t been seen before in the sport, which greatly boosts the interest among many riders and the press. The increased interest from medias around the world also comes from the marketing of well known names, like Georgina Bloomberg (daughter to Michael Bloomberg) and Jessica Springsteen (daughter to Bruce Springsteen). Something that is often forgotten is the great promotor and marketer that Tops is. By tapping into new market regions and concentrate on a more luxurious and top quality competition he has managed to draw in new groups of people who are willing to invest in the sport, as well as keeping the top riders interested in participating in the tour.
Instead of one big tour as it was before, now there is a couple of them and more emerging, which means that more riders than before are getting the chance to participate among the best riders and arenas and to develop the sport around the world. The interest from new countries will surely continue to increase, which also will develop the sport. To support this it’s possible to use the sometimes criticized term of ”trickle down economics” which can be seen as the higher standards and money in the top will work its way down. The increased prizes on the best horses that are sold can help horse-breeders and riders on a lower level who might have a good horse to be sold for more money than before. This in terms helps them to build up a working business and makes it possible to go out and compete more and build up a reputation, and so on.
In the end, the marketing of new tours have helped to increase the knowledge and interest in show jumping around the globe. From being a mostly western world centered market and showplace, it is finally moving abroad into new regions and reaching new people who are interested to invest in the sport.