You love horses passionately. You love riding and competing. How many times a year do you take time off work to go sit in the stands at a horse show? Not to ride, not to help a friend, but simply to enjoy as a spectator. Probably not even once.

Few equestrian events draw crowds in North America. With the exception of one big class, the stands are generally empty at most horse shows. Even hardcore riders aren’t sold on the spectator experience. Riding there? In a heartbeat. Watching? No, thanks. I rather go ride my horse.

The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, formerly known as simply ‘Rolex’ (a marketer’s holy grail and a shame to have lost that), stands out. About 72,000 people attended in 2018. Those are significant numbers.

The level of fan engagement is through the roof. For many, it’s an annual pilgrimage. They block out the dates and come hell or high water, they’re going. Some take a vacation to freakin’ VOLUNTEER (that’s crazy to me but nothing is crazy in LRK3DE-land). Others make plans to watch the competition on the livestream.

If no one cares about your brand, you don’t have a brand. 

People care about LRK3DE. It’s special. How did it get there? Here are the key elements that make it a success:

Scarcity. It is the sole event in North America at this competition level. By limiting the offer, you make it special. The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real if you’re not there because it only happens once a year.

Excellence. The event is not only scarce, but you’re watching the best of the best. Past winners are a who’s who of international eventing: Oliver Townend, Michael Jung, William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson, Mary King, the list goes on.

Added value. Spectators might go for the competition, but the show has provided a myriad of other elements to entice people to go. From shopping to demonstrations, course walks and bourbon tastings, there is something for the entire family.

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Rider buy-in. This is a key element for fan engagement. Kentucky riders are out and about, meeting fans, signing autographs and taking selfies. This is huuuuuge. Who takes a photo with Boyd Martin and doesn’t post it on social media or tell their friends? No one. Forty-to-fifty riders x hundreds of spectators x four days = PR jackpot.

Influencer marketing (Rider buy-in Part 2). Who rides at Kentucky and doesn’t post it on social media? No one. By being accessible, LRK3DE competitors elevate the fan experience by sharing their own experience on social media, and they generate interest for the event.

Delivery. A brand is a promise and the LRK3DE brand delivers. The show is well-run, and logistically, things work like you would expect them to work.

Most important: 100% on-brand. The event feels exactly how the sport of eventing is: friendly and approachable. Even though it is sponsored by luxury brands, they didn’t make it obnoxiously elite, like so many show jumping shows now. At LRK3DE, the shopping is affordable, the dress code is casual, and no one feels left out.

Whether it was a conscious decision or it just evolved that way, it is completely on-brand with the sport and the people who love it. This is why event riders feel a deep connection to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Like it’s theirs to share with the world. They’ll tell you it’s big, it’s awesome, and you have to be there. You can go ride your horse any other week. You can’t miss the #BestWeekendAllYear.