It’s not only become a mantra, but it’s also seen as a second lease of life to some in that small pool of hardcore racing media people.
They can see the writing on the traditional newspaper wall and need to find some new cause celebre de racing before The Fat Lady bursts into song.
Whet happens next is going into overdrive to be seen as being able to communicate with the new and next generation of relatively young racing fans- two very different customer groups with the former being pretty much clueless/uninterested in the sport while the latter group are already part of the racing community, but still checking out its pros and cons, weighing out the buffet of other choices available to them, and yet to take that big dive into horse racing and get more than their feet wet.
Of course, to go with all this is that still-to-be understood term called “social media”- the basics of marketing dressed in spanking new swaddling clothes and buzz words- which is far more than stringing together less than 140 words on twitter.
It’s here where many from Ye Olde School see an opportunity to shine and position themselves as the sport’s renaissance men.
Repo men might be more accurate.
Marketing is marketing and without understanding its basics and how to work to a written strategy to engage those new to the sport, many go half-cocked with their tweets without understanding that what’s needed is the CONTENT, which is only then “despatched” to the various new media platforms that have sprung up- platforms that leave us wondering how these business models which are available free become revenue generators.
That’s another story for another day.
As for those new to racing, many say that “edutaining” them about the win/place bet is the first baby step in having them join the horse racing party.
We don’t buy it.
The newbie punter hates to lose and, what’s worse is when the initial elation of winning on a Win/Place bet ends up with only a placing and the “profits” not even covering one’s outlay.
Suffering a disappointment like this, and those baby steps end up having the novice punter taking their ball, leaving, and looking elsewhere to invest their dollars.
In Hong Kong, the Jockeys Challenge- why this still isn’t sponsored and becomes more than a simple add on to wagering is baffling- is far more entertaining- it’s even sexy- than anywhere else, as here, the top jockeys are celebrities and treated like Rock stars.
Joao Moreira, Douglas Whyte, Tommy Berry, Zac Purton- and watch out for Karis Teetan next season- are, yes, key drivers in turnover and affecting the odds of the runners they’re on, but they can also be key drivers in winning over the newbie punter.
At Happy Valley Racecourse and those Happy Wednesday nights, these “celebrity jockeys” can be seen up-close and personal in the paddock area and at the Beer Garden when they gallop by to the starting barriers.
Even a wink, or a smile at racing fans while they’re in the paddock area plays a huge role in creating connectivity with racing fans whereas hi-fives and happy-slapping the hands of the winning jockeys as they canter their horses past by those lined up along the edges of the Beer Garden gives newbies that “touched” effect and sense of “belonging”.
Whyte and Moreira- we have never ever seen the adulation and adoration heaped on this Brazilian superstar of the turf by Hong Kong’s fickle racing fans- have all this “connectivity” with racing fans down pat. They really are the best at it.
A couple of meetings ago on a Wednesday night, we remember Dougie throwing a pair of his goggles our way after winning a race- but which were caught by someone else- a female newbie to racing standing next to us.
This small gesture led to her and her friends- and her friends’ friends- pooling their resources and buying any of Dougie’s rides paying between 1.50-2.20 to place- and, with four races left that night, winning. And her “system” continues today.
Don’t ever think these newbies are slow learners. If they like what they see, they’ll stay and play.
The female newbies, especially, quickly fine-tune their own “betting systems”- they dislike being force-fed tips or anything remotely “hardcore” as it suggests becoming another “desperate gambler”- and can teach experienced punters new ways to tackle tierce, quartet, and treble bets.
It’s those second-guessing the different customer segments WITHIN this one particular customer segment and who don’t engage with these people- face to face- are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to finding ways to involve these newbies in this game of chance.
What’s more, when these newbies win, they use social media- mainly instagram, but also twitter, weibo and WeChat and even dating app Tinder- to spread the world in a language and “tone of communication” that’s far more relevant to their peers than any hardcore corporate-type tweets.
As for The Jockey Challenge, it’s more than another bet.
It’s the most simple edutainment tool to those who wouldn’t know a Six Up from a 7Up and Zac Purton from Zac Efron and Douglas Whyte from Jack Black.
These Jockey Challenges have a human face and those “starring” in them should, we believe, be taken off-course and promoted wherever new racing fans congregate and can meet these leading riders in person.
Each of these personalities are very different with their own unique stories to tell.
Getting it right so that the younger customer can meet them in a relaxed environment- something like a far more chilled version of Speed Dating- and a party atmosphere with ‘live’ music and guests from other sports like even Becks or Sharapova or Lewis Hamilton, where one type of horse power can meet another type of horse power, can accomplish much very quickly.
Invite one of sponsor Longines’ brand ambassadors- Kate Winslet or Simon Baker- along with other local racing favorites such as Tony Cruz and Caspar Fownes and some of Hong Kong’s younger and newer owners.
Jockeys are people, too- many, like new generation race-goers, are new generation riders- and not one-dimensional athletes who ride horses.
They laugh, they cry, they listen to music, they watch movies, they keep up with trends, they’re on social media, and being in an industry where weasels slither in, they can read people very well.
Yet, these athletes- the stars of the show called horse racing- are rarely promoted and marketed to become anything more than names relegated to the racing pages of that thing called a newspaper.
The new generation or Gen C or the New Millennials have stopped watching television, let alone reading newspapers- especially the racing pages. That’s saved for kitty litter.
So, here we are fast-approaching the end of 2014 and jockeys remain the only athletes without or not allowed to be sponsored and kept in their little boxes.
In Australia, young guns like Harry Coffey, below, who is one helluva promising jockey despite fighting cystic fibrosis, Chad Schofield, Jamie Kah who mixes it with the big boys, Jye McNeil and James McDonald have strong sponsorship appeal along with human interest stories to tell that big, wide world beyond horse racing and its one-dimensional end games.
In Hong Kong, Joao Moreira, Douglas Whyte etc- also with sponsorship appeal- really should be marketed outside of appearing on racing programs with talking wobble heads waffling on to an audience of less than a few thousand people.
The irony is that despite all this talk about customers and connectivity with the next generation of racing, there is very little thought about the need to become a recognized player in the much bigger world of sports entertainment- key in creating interest in a sport still dismissed by many as being a “mug’s game”.
Perception is everything and the image of racing must change as the HKJC has managed to accomplish with its Happy Wednesday brand which keeps evolving.
This new and next generation of race-goer are very familiar with a sporting world which they see as entertainment.
They follow Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
They read about the on-again-off-again relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Scherzingher, and what’s happening with Andy Murray and his girlfriend.
They follow the exploits of Nadal and Federer, the love match between Rory McIlroy and the delectable Caroline Wozniacki and, of course, cannot ignore Brand Beckham through coverage in all aspects of mass media and via the marketing support of sponsors.
The truth is that the future of horse racing is being stunted through tunnel vision by the very people who can take the sport into a brave new world.
Perhaps they know they won’t be around when this new day arrives, and so, couldn’t give a rat’s arse about changing anything other than ensuring that they feather their own nests.
What constantly nags at us is knowing the inability of way too many senior racing executives whose only strengths are shaking hands for photo opps and talking about what they once did while all the time hoping no one sees how useless they are when push comes to shove. Oh, but, they do…We see everything.
Paul Bittar and, of course, the HKJC’s Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges are exceptions to the rule that quickly come to mind and who understand the need to push that creative envelope to stop the rot setting in and changing rigid mind sets.
The problem is getting this envelope pushed past the armies of Yes People who, simply put, are too far down Highway 61 to change and who hire others in their likeness.
The times, they aren’t changing fast enough, Bob.
It’s why racing club-organized gala dinners are the cold, boring, “mandatory” affairs that they are and to which many in the racing fraternity need to have their arms twisted to attend.
It’s also why the sponsorship of race meetings are the tedious affairs they are- all those naff presentation ceremonies no one watches- and which those who bring racing to life on racetracks know about only to well, but bear with it waiting for someone else to shake off this corporate lethargy.
The “good news” is that every industry in the world is littered by those with huge packages to go with their huge titles, but whose entire job ethic is to survive with that Gloria Gaynor song going on in their heads.
Again, we come to the new and next generation of racing fans.
When they are far more “traveled” and knowledgable about the buffet of entertainment choices available to them, know what communications they wish to absorb, and know exactly what they want and how and when they want it, racing clubs better wake up to this and also realize that their captive market requires attention.
On the sponsorship front, brands like Adidas, Nike, Red Bull, Ferrari etc who use great creativity and brand popularity to ensure the sports they back keep evolving and being relevant, don’t even have racing on their radars.
Poor marketing and presentation of the racing product, weak creativity and the wrong people in the wrong jobs incapable of selling the sport to a tough market- people who reached their level of incompetence a decade ago yet still keep being promoted.
Today’s customers are ahead of the game and no amount of talking and presentations by those on the periphery will change things.
Only through actually engaging consumers in horse racing through a simple learning curve like The Jockey Challenge- these people can easily become a racing club’s street marketing and social media teams- can there be tangible results and real Change which can be seen and felt for the long haul- and not as a pit stop.