THE HKJC: WHEN A RACING CLUB BECOMES MORE THAN “JUST A RACING CLUB”

There’s a herd movement taking place, especially on weekends, where, like the hippies winding their way to Woodstock to embrace Cocker Power and hold up peace signs, many local “tribes” make their way to the old Police Married Quarters (PMQ) in Central.

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Unless living under a rock for the past few months, PMQ was being touted by some as being Hong Kong’s answer to NYC’s The Village or Camden Market and a creative outlet for local entrepreneurs.

Perhaps it might morph into something like this in time, but, right now, it’s a long and winding road that leads one here, there and everywhere and a bit of a buffet with no real identity or “good vibes” to hold it together.

Again, perhaps it needs time to find its feet and a personality other than being somewhat on the bland of pedestrian even with its 1600 pandas.

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Enter the CPS Mothership

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Whatever it might be or become, PMQ is like the pod sent to test the waters before the arrival of the Mothership- the Mothership that will be the Central Police Station Revitalisation Project.

Opening in 2016, it promises to become something Hong Kong has never “hosted” or had ownership of before- a cultural hub without the Hooray Henry snobbery and one that safeguards the remaining heritage of a fast-disappearing old Hong Kong yet marries it with contemporary aspects of the city.

With space for exhibitions, contemporary arts, specialized retail space, ‘live’ street musicians- echoes of Covent Garden- themed/branded bars, restaurants, but not of the Lan Kwai Fong/Soho/Wyndham Street variety as do we really need more of the same that’s actually even MORE of the same?- the Revitalisation Project goes beyond revitalizing this wonderful site. If those walls could talk…

The fact that this project is a partnership between the Hong Kong Government and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, which the latter will manage, has raised a few eyebrows along with some questions, but let’s step back for a minute and rein in any thoughts that might lead us off the beaten path.

The words, “Jockey Club” and its association with the taboo word, “gambling”, is an all-too-easy, follow-the-numbers “answer” to jump to until one “does the maths” and takes the blinkers off.

Somewhat sadly, the HKJC is still perceived as being a one-dimensional organization to those who either refuse to acknowledge the Club’s funding of so many of Hong Kong’s much-needed projects through its Charities Trust, or, look at that “Racing For Charity” come-on under the rapidly clicking Little Shop Of Horrors man-eating plant type of totalizator board on race days and wonder, WTF? Racing for WHAT charity?

Here’s where the HKJC, which celebrates its 130th Anniversary in September of this year, continues to be misunderstood, and where perception versus reality is yet to be answered. And it should be answered as loudly as Joshua blowing down the walls of Jericho.

Sometimes, to avoid nice guys coming last, or good things getting lost in the shuffle, there is a need to blow one’s own trumpet.

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Changing mindsets

How can a “jockey club” manage an ambitious plan like what the old Central Police Station will become?

Well, not by managing how it does horse racing- incredibly successfully with the highest turnover in the world- but, instead, with a very different business strategy that’s included years of careful planning regarding “brand personality”, the “right” tenants, the hiring of Euan Upston, the former CEO of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, as Director of the project, below, and a deft understanding of the word, Revitalisation- and the process to make this happen.

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Smaller, but still relevant to this Revitalisation Project- and process- is the HKJC’s experience in managing the venues that the two racecourses house in Shatin and Happy Valley, and with each one opened to provide different customer segments with a better on-course experience.

Is there, for example, a better venue in any other race track anywhere in the world than Hay Market at the Shatin Racecourse?

With an incredible interior design by Joyce Wang, one really doubts it.

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Add to this the venues Adrenaline, Millions, The Gallery, Moon Koon, the soon-to-be-opened upmarket Members Only restaurant called Chalk, and, of course, The Beer Garden at Happy Valley, what you have is a food and “entertainment court”, with the HKJC, no doubt, having adopted a horses for courses strategy.

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Being more than a jockey club

Have these venues- and the Club’s expertise in running them- been effectively marketed to those outside of the box- and the Private Boxes at both racecourses? Possibly not.

It’s like the HKJC Charities Trust where a token quarter page advertorial on page 7 of a new project or initiative is hardly going to gain much awareness, and which is why, I’ve always advocated for there to be some form of “More than a jockey club” strategy in place, both internally and externally.

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The hardcore racing fan will always be there as their Field Of Dreams has been built and they will come as long as there are races to be wagered on.

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However, captive markets are just that: captive.

As the world turns, along with stomachs depending on where you dined the night before, the need to look beyond the obvious and attract new consumers and where rebranding comes into play is one that should excite and inspire the HKJC.

That challenge to take the Club from being part of that misguided mantra of “Just a racing club” to “More than a racing club”, and bring in all the new elements to meet this objective, should be embraced.

Location, location, location and positioning, positioning, positioning, and knowing something about horse racing, marketing and the HKJC, the timing seems to be reaching that bewitching hour.

This has to do with timing when a “racing club” can no longer be afforded to be fobbed off as being “one dimensional”- certainly not in Hong Kong and, definitely, not a Club like the HKJC that has a proud history attached to it, but with an even brighter and greater future.

There is a new Field Of Dreams to be built as a new generation of consumers- yes, including race-goers- is looking for and needing in a restless city undergoing great change.

Hans Ebert

This entry was posted in Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to THE HKJC: WHEN A RACING CLUB BECOMES MORE THAN “JUST A RACING CLUB”

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