Alltech commits $14M to 2014 Equestrian Games in Normandy

Alltech could spend more than $14 million to again be the title sponsor of the next FEI World Equestrian Games, the company announced Friday morning.

The sponsorship of the 2014 Games, which will be in Normandy, France, is an increase in price from the $10 million the company spent to be named the title sponsor of the 2010 Games in Lexington.

"It really is the same order of magnitude of investment, but it's not the investment that's important," Alltech founder Pearse Lyons said at a press conference in Normandy. "It's the investment in terms of people and time and energy and fun and passion. Absolutely, it will be the same amount of investment in all of these things, if not, in fact, even more."

In exchange, the Nicholasville-based animal health company will receive worldwide branding rights, hospitality and ticketing privileges, and a "global platform of communications," Games chief executive Fabien Grobon said. The two sides have been working on the contract for more than a year, Grobon said.

"And we really count on Dr. Lyons ... for strong ideas for the Games and for the region," he said.

One thing the organizers appear not to be counting on from Alltech is a chunk of additional money. The company wound up spending more than $30 million in promoting the Games last year in Kentucky.

In the final days before the 2010 Games, the sponsorship became less about promotion and more about the actual running of the event. Alltech put its staffers to work, among other things, raising millions more to bolster less-than-expected ticket sales. The company's business partners paid $1.875 million to bring more than 60,000 schoolchildren to the Games. The company also created the Commonwealth Club to sell ticket packages to businesses, raising $1.1 million that way.

The $30 million-plus figure from 2010 also doesn't include the cost of Lyons' staff: He lent more than 80 of his employees to the Games' organizing committee to help with finance, marketing, operations work and more.

Grobon said he doesn't expect that kind of spending in Normandy. He said the Games' budget is 64 million euros.

At Friday's exchange rate, the budget is the equivalent of $91.2 million.

Of that budget, 6 million euros is for contingencies. The organizers already have 43 million euros in public funding and 10 million euros from Alltech's sponsorship, and the remaining amount is expected to be generated through sponsorships and ticket sales.

"Whatever the investment by Alltech is, it will be well spent," Grobon said. "At the moment, we feel confident around this 10 million euro amount."

Asked how involved Alltech would be in Normandy compared to the Kentucky Games, Grobon characterized Alltech as "a new addition to the team."

"We'll do with them when they're needed, without them when they're not needed," he said.

He expects that there will be proposals made to Alltech along the way to assist in media, musical and cultural events.

"We can come to each other and see how we can finance those projects," Grobon said. "The Alltech team is really impressive and knows what they are doing in sponsoring."

Lyons said Alltech is beginning to put its team together internally to "ascertain what will be different about this event versus Kentucky's."

He said marketing "will be our focal point," and he expects the company's marketing director to start with 10 employees focused purely on the Games.

"I expect that to grow and grow and grow," Lyons said.

A tangible difference between the Games will be that Normandy's site for events is more centralized than the sprawling Kentucky Horse Park.

"In a 15-minute walk ... you can actually go from one side of where the event will be to where the events will extend out," Lyons said.

Grobon and others visited Kentucky before, during and after the 2010 Games to study their execution.

"We also benchmarked several events in tennis and sailing to structure what we've been doing the past six months," he said.

But as different as some aspects might be, one thing is the same, Lyons said: He knew Alltech wanted to be involved.

"I often joke and say it took 10 minutes for me to step up and become the title sponsor," he said. "I've had the chance to step back and ask the question if it was the right decision.

"And so I can tell you, it would have taken me 10 seconds to be the title sponsor of Fabien's Games."