Musselburgh Racecourse enjoys PR success at the Fringe

by Ainsley Piggott

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

How To Create A Buzz Ahead Of A Big Event

Musselburgh Racecourse PR stunt at the Meadows for Edinburgh FringeHOW DO you reach the biggest possible audience for your business or venture when around 3000 rivals are competing ferociously in exactly the same space?

Sounds like a horrible, daunting challenge, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s exactly the colossal task which faced Musselburgh Racecourse while promoting its annual Caledonian Brewery Raceday. The event, sponsored by one of Scotland’s best-known and best-loved breweries is a popular annual fixture at the track, just outside Edinburgh.

As well as a blistering race card, the event features beer, bands and Ben Hur-style racing (well, harness racing in funny wee chariots) and has a growing reputation as a brilliant day out for groups of friends and families.

However, almost any event needs a great big push to stand out from the constellation of other experiences and list of things to do which bedazzle the modern experience-seeker. So the racecourse wanted to dream up an eye catching way to catch the attention of ordinary people in Edinburgh city centre.

One problem. It was mid-August, the height of the annual Festival Fringe – which meant that 3000 other acts were out trying to drum up an audience and cause a buzz, at exactly the same time.

In face the competition couldn’t be any tougher – with comedians, acrobats, musicians, actors and every other type of garishly-costumed entertainers vying for attention. The city centre was mobbed with characters, abuzz with noise and almost buried beneath tonnes of fliers, leaflets and bill posters. It would have been all too easy to give up.

Instead we pitched a unique idea that delivered an eye catching six-hour promotion which:

  • Caught the attention of thousands of passers-by
  • Saw hundreds of people stop to enter an instant prize draw
  • Convinced almost 100 of those people to perform on camera
  • Yielded an amusing video which went on to gain thousands of views on social media

How To Separate Yourself From Others

musselburgh-racecourse-giveaway-prizes-to-festival-revellers-for-best-horse-impressionWe came up with an original idea that would help Musselburgh Racecourse to create a stir of its own – on the Meadows in the very heart of the city’s most packed Fringe venues, just yards from both the circus hub and the ever-growing warren of venues clustered around Edinburgh University and George Square.

With the Fringe fully upon us we were inspired to think outside the box and come up with an idea that would ooze creativity and fun. We decided to set up a horsebox and encourage festival goers to enter it and perform their best horse impression to be in with chance of winning a selection of prizes – after all, if you can’t let your hair down during the festival then when can you?

As you can probably guess, you can’t just rock up to a central location in Edinburgh with a horse and a camera without being granted permission from the council. So, as a starting point to make this project come to life we began the lengthy process of liaising with relevant contacts at the council to receive the go ahead we needed.

After much deliberation and negotiation we secured the top spot and excitedly moved onto the various other actions we needed to complete including securing prizes, arranging videography and briefing the promo team.

Our next hurdle was to ensure the activity was outgoing and interactive and offered an array of fun and desirable prizes. Luckily for participants, Musselburgh Racecourse had teamed up with Edinburgh’s oldest brewery which meant we were able to offer beer tasting sessions, exclusive tours of the Caledonian Brewery as well as tickets to the Caledonian raceday which featured a beer festival. What better way to spend a Saturday than with a day at the races followed by a private beer tasting session – already we could tell our prizes were going to attract the crowds.

Of course no matter how big the prizes were we had to ensure enough attention was directed to the site in order to be able to inform people of the giveaways. The next step was to come up with quirky ideas that would appropriately dress up the horsebox and surrounding area to really sell the activity. From large branded signs displaying the imaginative activity name ‘Horsing Around At The Festival’ to hay bales and a dressed up jockey we were able to set up the perfect scene.

Edinburgh PR agency show how they help clients achieve more media coverageYou can get more information on reusing PR content here

From there it was about selling it to people passing by. We briefed the carefully selected promo team to interact with festival goers and encourage them to step up to the challenge whilst also communicating key messages for the Caledonian Brewery Raceday.

Not only had we set up a video camera to document everyone’s performances we were also instantly emailing stills from the footage straight to people’s inboxes and encouraging them to tweet them out to be in with a chance of winning further prizes.

Through hard work, dedication and creative spirit we were able to gather almost 100 people to showcase their best horse impression and join in with our one off activity. Not only did this highlight Musselburgh Racecourse’s personality but it also helped position them as Edinburgh’s racecourse and enabled us to inform people of upcoming racedays and events.

The video camera allowed us to collate all of the footage and put together a memorable video that we were able to make various uses of including issuing it to media, uploading onto social media channels and positioning it in our monthly newsletter and on our website.

The benefit of documenting activity like this is that the content you capture can be repurposed for various stories allowing you to get multiple bites of the cherry for the price of one.

Following on from the success of the festival activity the Caledonian Brewery Raceday, which took part just two weeks after the stunt, went on to top the previous year. More than 100 additional people attended this year compared with last making it a grand total of 3,600 through the door.

This highlighted that pre-promoting events can have an impact on overall attendance figures when done efficiently and effectively. Approaching potential customers face to face is a simple and low cost way of communicating key messages and positioning your business in front of the people you want to target.


Too often businesses stick to what is the norm and are reluctant to think outside the box. However, this is proof that you can create a cost effective campaign, with a creative twist to achieve successful results.

It also shows how any business, even those with a relatively small budget can use creative planning to put together an effective campaign and reach the right people in the run up to important events.

We’d love the chance to speak with you and discuss how public relations could help your business to enjoy better results, while creating a happier workplace. We’re a chatty bunch and you can speak with us on any time at 0131 561 2244, or fill out the simple form below and we’ll get straight back to you.

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Ainsley Piggott of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Private: Ainsley Piggott

Ainsley Piggott joined award winning Holyrood PR in Scotland with three years industry knowledge behind her having previously worked on well known consumer PR accounts such as Asda, Greggs and DFS

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