Riyadh horses exhibition

From Riyadh to Ringside: Unveiling Global Champions and Saudi Arabia’s sports triumph

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17th Nov 2023

I recently had the privilege of working in Saudi Arabia, contributing to the penultimate Longines Global Champions event in 2023 — a milestone that marked a significant moment in the evolving Saudi sports scene. This particular event was a notable step in the country’s sports growth, aligning with a forward-looking vision to transform the equestrian and sporting landscape into a global hub for excellence and entertainment in 2023.

For those unfamiliar, Longines Global Champions Tour, renowned in the equestrian world, hosted the season Championship finals in Riyadh.The event served as the culmination of the entire season, where the world’s best riders and horses from around the globe compete at 15 different stages, in 15 different locations. LGCT stands for Longines Global Champions Tour, and GCL stands for Global Champions League. The season, spanning both product entities, went down to the wire, with multiple permutations on the final day in both the league, and individual Championships. This led to an awe inspiring and dramatic final weekend, which through our content ideation, updates on the standings and in general showcasing this amazing location and venue, gained impressive engagements and reactions on social media.

What set the Saudi Arabia event apart was not just the exceptional sporting display, but also the vibrant atmosphere that the Diriyah stadium offered to their audience. The show facilities were simply world-class, demonstrating an immersive yet inclusive experience in sports and entertainment from start to finish. I was lucky to have the privilege of leading Global Champions’ social content strategy across two products and 10 social channels, providing an insider’s view of the finals, and finding myself gripped in the tension of the sport and results, hosted in an amazing and unforgettable environment.

three people taking a picture

The event was incredible both offline and online. Digitally, we achieved over 10 million impressions, 8.5 million video views, and 786,000 engagements, some of the best metrics ever for the brand and sport. While we expected engagement and reception on social media platforms to spike given the circumstances and the location, the overall performance surpassed expectations, including my own. This indicated the event’s resonance and the growing global interest in sports hosted in Saudi Arabia.

We were fortunate enough to receive an invitation to Abdulrahman Alrajhi’s equestrian farmhouse, one of the Riyadh Blue riders with a significant digital footprint in Saudi Arabia. The level of hospitality extended is something that will stick with me for a long time, offering a glimpse into the deep-rooted culture of generosity and warmth that defines Saudi Arabian hospitality and heritage. The week showcased Saudi Arabia as offering a unique blend of hospitality, sport, and entertainment that delivered a balance of tradition and modernity, one that fully impressed me and that I will never forget.

While we were in Riyadh, we were also fortunate enough to experience one of the most anticipated events in the region and in the porting calendar for 2024: the #BattleOfTheBaddest. Watching Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou was a fantastic experience. Although I am a huge boxing fan, I have only had the opportunity to attend live boxing events in England. Therefore, witnessing this high-profile spectacle in another country was incredibly memorable. The opening ceremony was like nothing I had ever seen before, as was the atmosphere — a testament to the people of Riyadh for delivering on what they had promised would be one of the fights of the year. Eventually me and my colleague ended up ringside with the likes of Michael Buffer, Ronaldo, Figo, Eminem, and Mike Tyson didn’t hurt either – just wow!

Looking forward, the future of sports in Saudi Arabia appears promising . The strides made in positioning the country as a sports hub are inspiring, and the blend of tradition, with modernity ensures a unique and inclusive approach to sports entertainment. Saudi Arabia has seen a huge influx of footballing talent over the past few months following a cash injection from the country’s sovereign wealth fund, spending more than $900 million on new players over the summer, according to a report by Deloitte. Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Karim Benzema now all play for Saudi clubs.

A recent report released by Play the Game showed that Saudi sponsors now have more than 300 sports deals, 84 of which are in football. In October alone, the tourist body Visit Saudi sealed commercial deals with the Asian and African football confederations and Spain’s La Liga.

With the country also looking like the sole bidder for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, it seems that we haven’t even scratched the surface of what sporting events Saudi Arabia is looking to host in the coming years.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in Riyadh. Not many people can say they’ve been given that opportunity, and the hospitality and professionalism displayed in Saudi Arabia are things I’ll remember not only for the rest of my professional career but also for the rest of my life.

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