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10 October 2019

Ed Nicholson reveals his company Kindred’s approach to supporting important issues on mental health and wellbeing.

Betting, racing and marketing

I’ve worked in the betting and racing industries since before graduating from University. In fact, upon finishing University on the Friday I started a full-time job in the industry on the Monday! I worked at Ladbrokes – initially as a broadcaster and studio manager, then in 1995 as PR manager and spokesperson. I learnt so much about commerce, marketing as well as the betting and racing industries during my seven years at the company and worked with some amazingly talented people who still remain in the betting or racing industries today, including Nick Rust (BHA CEO) and Ed Ware (Founder of 32Red).

I then joined City Index as head of marketing before moving onto 888.com and then Kindred in 2012 as Head of UK Marketing.

Transfixed by Nijinsky

My grandfather told me I was transfixed by Nijinsky in 1970 when aged just two! The family went to Newmarket for a day at the races, when he got beaten in the Champion stakes. Obviously I don’t remember that myself but have fond memories of visiting Market Rasen racecourse on school holidays as my mother was from the town, while my godfather was the course doctor and a permit trainer. I certainly wanted to be a jockey when I was very young, and even went to riding school aged six until about nine, which wasn’t easy as my family lived in Hackney and I was the only boy in the classes as I seem to remember. But I grew a bit too big! So, I thought I’d work in the racing media instead and that was where I was heading as I was employed by Mark Popham to work for Racenews.

Racing highlights

Red Rum winning his third Grand National in 1977 when I was aged 8 gave me great satisfaction, as my dad said he couldn’t do it and had backed favourite Andy Pandy (many of certain age may remember that horse falling at Becher’s Brook second time around when well ahead). 

Being a winning owner with the mighty Cillian’s Well over the last three years (has won four races) has to be up there, too, especially as I own him in conjunction with friends Phil Bell (Chepstow Executive Director), Rod Street (GBR Chief Executive) and Jim Beavis (author of many books on defunct racecourses). 

I also must mention the Ulundi years. My great friend David Heath bought him for peanuts as an unraced four-year-old from Andre Fabre; reportedly the slowest horse in the yard! He was bought to race over hurdles and run at Cheltenham – and although he won a Scottish Champion hurdle, it was the Fat on which he excelled, winning the Wolferton Rated Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2002, and then finishing fourth in the Arlington Million beaten a head, a nose and a head. From the moment of his first bumper run to that trip to Chicago was all ‘a best moment’ in racing, although those days at Arlington Park were surreal.  We even went to the Galway festival with him and he had a long life after racing – he was at Newmarket’s British School for Racing for many years teaching the next generation of jockeys. 

From a professional perspective I guess managing and marketing the big race sponsorships and races such as the Unibet Champion hurdle, 32Red King George Chase as well Unibet’s Official Betting Partnerships with Qatar Goodwood Festival and the Investec Derby always brings a smile to my face.

BRAIN POWER ridden by Nico de Boinville wins the UNIBET International Hurdle at Cheltenham 15/12/18 Photograph by Grossick Racing Photography

Positive change

First and foremost I am a fan of horse racing and I feel racing should be for all, and having frequented racecourses for five decades I have seen a great deal of positive change on courses that ensure many diverse groups are welcomed and feel welcome. My Politics & Sociology BSc dissertation at University back in 1991 was on Gender Inequality within racing, and you’d be surprised as to the non-acceptance to women within racing organisations and companies back then, and I feel the same is true for diverse groups at present. It’s getting better, but more needs to be done to make racing more inclusive.  

Racecourses have done a great deal in the last 25 years to make racing an enjoyable leisure opportunity for all, but even now I still find some racecourses do not fully provide for those who require wheelchair assistance to both necessary (toilets) and required (O&T or race presentation) areas and now as we move forward there is both a need and a real opportunity to engage and cater for those racing fans with an invisible illness to both feel comfortable about visiting racecourses and to be comfortable when at the location itself. There is also a commercial opportunity for a racecourse to tap into here.

There are over 12.5 million people in the UK living with ‘activity limiting’ conditions. For example, 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and by 2025 this figure is set to reach 1 million.

When digesting these figures racecourse groups and racecourses should note that the ‘purple pound’ has been currently valued at being worth £249 billion to the UK economy. So, racecourses can embrace diversity and inclusion while at the same time getting more people through its gates and spending money on race days. And these groups can remain a loyal – and financially lucrative – customer group.

Unibet supporting #GoRacingGreen

Debbie Newton has done an amazing job in creating and talking to racecourses about hidden disabilities; it’s amazing to think she even suffered from hippophobia, the psychological fear of horses, before a 17.2 hand giant of a horse (named Romeo) befriended her at the back of her garden at her new Somerset house in 2015. But it wasn’t until seeing Altior in early 2019 that Debbie thought about this project and she’s achieved a great deal in a short space of time.

By Kindred investing in #GoRacingGreen – both in terms of money and marketing – it is hoped this will enable #GoRacingGreen to do even more in the coming years, and it obviously helps her dedicate more of her own time to the cause.

Tackling mental health is at the core of Kindred’s commitment to become the sponsor of choice for sporting organisations and their communities, and reinvent sponsorship so that it benefits places and communities. Through Kindred’s Unibet brand, the commitment and investment into the #GoRacingGreen project includes:

  • Committing to all future sponsorships with racecourses now including #GoRacingGreen as a core part of an agreement.
  • Key racecourse operating staff to undergo mental health awareness training prior to sponsorship
  • Securing a dedicated space at each racecourse for #GoRacingGreen to operate
  • Donating 1 in 3 adverts – both digital and physical –to #GoRacingGreen to utilise

We would like to see other sponsors ask for similar with their racecourse sponsorship.

Newbury implemented a quiet zone at the racecourse in partnership with both Unibet and #GoRacingGreen

Excellence in Wellbeing and World Mental Health Day

Kindred (parent company of Unibet & 32Red) has recently been recognised by the ‘Great Place to Work’ initiative as having an ‘Excellence in Wellbeing’ and we have devised a range of activities to highlight mental health awareness this week, in the run up to today’s World Mental Health Day.

We have arranged for #GoRacingGreen’s Debbie Newton to skype to our Gibraltar office to present to over 1,500 Kindred staff in a simulcast to be beamed live across six global offices that span three continents.

Debbie will be telling Kindred staff what it is like to suffer from mental illness, as she suffers from anxiety and other mental health issues herself. She will then go onto explain why she set up, and the success she has had in running of #GoRacingGreen, with the aim to help those living with invisible conditions to go racing.

Our association with #GoRacingGreen follows the launch earlier this year of our partnership with Derby County Community Trust, and the extended relationship with Derby County Football Club, through Team Talk,  which aims to support men who suffer from mild mental health problems, offering them a secure and friendly space to socialise and talk openly about their thoughts and feelings. This investment enabled Derby County Community Trust to open five hubs across the City, which meant many more men with mental health problems across the community could be reached.

We believe this is a new – and better – form of sports sponsorship and we are developing across all our future sports sponsorships.

Sport is such a powerful vehicle through which to create an impact and we want to take advantage of that to ensure our sports sponsorship investments also benefit the communities that sports clubs or racecourses serve. The real benefit of sponsorship to us is the link it creates between our business and the sporting organisation and community.

Mental health is a topic that Kindred have taken extremely seriously over the years and in the last eighteen months we have fully committed to as part of our Sustainability Strategy.

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