Anouk Blain-Mailhot on the Longines Masters: Reaching our 10th year is a fantastic milestone

Credit : EEM

Friday 30 November - 15h53 | Interview by Lorène Faucompré

Anouk Blain-Mailhot on the Longines Masters: "Reaching our 10th year is a fantastic milestone"

The CSI5* Longines Masters of Paris, the pioneering event of what is now the Grand Slam Indoor of Show Jumping, a series which takes place near the French capital as well as Hong Kong and New York, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. An opportune moment for Anouk Blain-Mailhot – global sponsoring and marketing manager of the Longines Masters Series at its founder EEM – to look back on the history of the circuit. 

 - Anouk Blain-Mailhot on the Longines Masters: Reaching our 10th year is a fantastic milestone

Maikel Van Der Vleuten riding Dana Blue in Paris in 2017
Credit : Scoopdyga

GPR: Over the past ten years, Christophe Ameeuw, founder and CEO of EEM, has made it his mission to reinvent show jumping and bring equestrian sports to a broader international public. When and how did you join the EEM team and this initiative?
Anouk Blain-Mailhot: I joined the team in 2012, when EEM was expanding into Asia. I had already had experience in that part of the world, having lived and worked for eight years in Hong Kong and Singapore. I also worked for a luxury group for fifteen years. So I combined my experience in the field with my knowledge of Asia and my equestrian background, being a former rider myself. It has been interesting to adapt the concept to the Asian market, which is quite different – a place where the equestrian community is much smaller than in France or the United States, for example. The goal was to create a global concept, but with a local flavor.

GPR: As you mentioned, around 2012–13, EEM set out to establish itself in different continents, and developed what would become the international Longines Masters circuit, with an Asian debut in Hong Kong. French rider Patrice Delaveau made his mark there at the time by winning four classes, including the Longines Grand Prix with Lacrimoso 3 * HDC. Was that a good omen for continuing the collaboration with your new partner Longines?
A.B-M. : The Hong Kong stage was the start of today's international Grand Slam. The goal of Christophe Ameeuw was for the series to have a continental and international resonance at every stage, as is the case in [the tennis grand slam]. The first edition of Hong Kong was indeed incredible, with Patrice winning four of the six events! That gave a particular flavor to the event, and the Hong Kong public really had the feeling of seeing great sport, with a real champion. The competition was extremely well covered by the press in Asia – it was a brilliant success for this first edition. However, it was difficult to establish the Longines Masters in Hong Kong, because there are logistics and quarantine constraints for horses there. We really were trying to conquer a new continent! The Hong Kong public had previously been able to discover equestrian sports in their city during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but people were still relatively unaware of the sport. Today, it is a passionate fanbase, which is attached to this great, upscale event, an event which has become "the place to be."

"We work hand-in-hand with Longines"

We work hand-in-hand with Longines - Anouk Blain-Mailhot on the Longines Masters: Reaching our 10th year is a fantastic milestone

Charitable donation at the 2017 edition
Credit : Scoopdyga

GPR: In 2015, Longines became the partner of the Longines Masters on three continents. The circuit highlights three cultures and three emblematic cities, as illustrated by the motto, "We Ride The World". And in 2017, the American leg of the series moved to New York. Do you plan one day to create a new stage on a fourth continent?
 A.B-M. : 2015 was definitely a great year. Our Grand Slam was officially recognized by the FEI. Longines, our partner in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, became the title partner for all three stages, and we were able to create the Longines Masters brand and identity. We work hand-in-hand with Longines. Together, we continue to apply our own approach to these iconic competitions, and offer the best of sports, entertainment, and all the lifestyle experiences around that. [Yes] we have been asked to set up other stages in other locations. While we obviously want to continue to develop our series, we are not trying to create multiple competitions at any price; it is not at all our approach. Nevertheless, we’re keeping an open mind and if the essential conditions are met, we will study a possibility if a great opportunity arises.

GPR: What does your global partnership with Longines bring you?
A.B-M. : Longines is a partner which today offers us tremendous support for our sport and for our industry. The best guage of our credibility remains the quality of our partners, and Longines is an absolutely exceptional partner. We work together to develop the Longines Masters brand. [The Longines Masters] constitutes the peak of all the Longines events organized during the year; it is a festive, glamourous and premium rendezvous par excellence.

GPR: The Riders Masters Cup was created last year. Presented in collaboration with the European Equestrian Federation, this event pits the two great powers of equestrian sports, Europe and the United States, against each other. Have you witnessed an increase in interest thanks to this new competition? Will the format for it be the same this year?
A.B-M. : The Riders Masters Cup really matches EEM's vision to create a fun and easy-to-understand event for the public. In any sport, you want to support your team and your flag…. The concept has been more and more publicized, and is very popular with broadcasters because of its short and dynamic format. We feel that there is a real excitement around it; the riders want to be part of it and the team leaders really get into it! This year, we made small changes in the point system but otherwise nothing major. The Riders Masters Cup builds up excitement over the course of the event, from the announcement of short lists to the selection of teams, with all the presentation involved in that. In New York, for example, this team competition was one of our best nights, with the public really displaying their patriotic spirit. We are currently at 2–0 in favour of Europe and I think the United States wants to take revenge! So we’re very excited about the start we’ve had, and we think the Riders Masters Cup will become a major competition.

"Villepinte is where we need to be"

Villepinte is where we need to be - Anouk Blain-Mailhot on the Longines Masters: Reaching our 10th year is a fantastic milestone

Before the action in the main arena
Credit : Scoopdyga

GPR: This year, Paris is hosting the fourth season of the Longines Masters and offers three levels of competition – CSI 1 *, 2 * and 5 * – with an impressive field of riders. Have you planned anything new for this new season?
A.B-M. : We are keeping the [existing] format with three categories. The CSI 1* is the elite of amateur riders. The CSI 2* is also very important because it is a training ground for the 5*. We see it as a place where the young champions of tomorrow develop, or for 5* riders with young horses. This category is really a kind of incubator of champions! The CSI5* is reserved for the greatest riders, and features our own formats, including the Riders Masters Cup, the Longines Speed ​​Challenge, and the Masters Power.... And this year is the 10th edition of the event in Paris! In the life of a sporting event, reaching your 10th year is a fantastic milestone. We are planning a great evening for Saturday night – a party in the village mixing lifestyle and sport. 

GPR: Could the Longines Masters of Paris move one day from the Villepinte Exhibition Park north of Paris and operate on its own? If so, do you have other places in mind?
A.B-M. : Villepinte offers us the best possible conditions, from a logistical point of view, including the tie-in with the Horse Show, which is one of the biggest equestrian events in Europe. We are a bit far from Paris, of course, but we are considering this issue from a more global point of view, more European and international. Villepinte is where we need to be, no doubt about it.

GPR: Christophe Ameeuw is already moving ahead with plans for the future. He has chosen to partner with Arqana, the race horse auction house, to create an innovative program for the sale of sport horses. Can you tell us more about The Auction, which will be split into two events in 2019?
A.B-M. : Christophe Ameeuw announced two weeks ago an association with Arqana [the specialist auction house for race horses in Deauville, France – editor’s note]. The concept is inspired by what Arqana already does in the racing world. The idea is to change the horse trade and bring transparency to the sale of sport horses. On February 15, 2019, as part of the Asia Horse Week and the Hong Kong Longines Masters, around 20 embryos from some of the biggest names in jumping will be auctioned. Registrations for this sale are in progress and the catalogue will be unveiled at the beginning of December. Later on, on December 11, 2019, after the Longines Masters, a selection of yearlings and exceptional performers will be offered for sale in Paris. This is a bit like what Artcurial did in the field of art. We want to implement a pedagogical approach, support sellers in the public market and open the investment in sport horses to a new clientele, both French and international.

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