Every product undergoes various re-branding processes- Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Adidas, Disneyland, Playboy, McDonald’s again when that clown Ronald was eased out ‘cos he came across as a creepy pedophile etc.
Hell, even artists like Madonna, Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé etc are constantly reinventing themselves as they are “brands” and have to in order to stay relevant, change with the times, change because of constantly changing consumer moods and behaviour and the millions of endorsements deals backing them.
Yes, as Bowie once sang, Ch-ch-ch-ch- changes unless that wheel ain’t broke and nothing need fixing.
Yesterday morning I was listening to Perth Racing committeeman Eddie Riggs being interviewed on TAB Radio’s The Big Breakfast whereas the night before, a very astute global player in the entertainment world, including sports, had asked when was the last time horse racing had re-branded, or re-invented itself.
Now, here is someone who wouldn’t know Chris Waller from Fats Waller and mudlarks from mud pies, and standing on the periphery watching from the sidelines, and weighing out the pros and cons as to whether he should jump into the horse racing industry- his entrepreneurial skills and one of the best celebrity roller decks in the world would be a huge asset to the perception of the sport- and asking something I hadn’t thought about- at least, not from a global perspective.
Re-branding horse racing was and is an interesting question as it has to do with trying to reach a wider audience comprising different target segments which means an increase in wagering plus attracting sponsors.
It also means fighting for more of that pie being gobbled up by online gambling that goes on 24/7 and the big spending casinos that throw everything including Le Cirque De Soleil AND the gold-rimmed kitchen sink as part of their five-star junkets for high rollers and their friends.
As for Perth Racing committeeman Eddie Griggs, he did an admirable job answering all that was asked of him in the fifty minutes he was on air.
The interview was, at least to me, a reversed club sandwich.
He lost me at Gloucester Park, the politicking, and when it came to all the maths, but hit me between the ears with the meat in the sandwich.
This was when, at the start of the interview, he touched on the changes needed in racing clubs- mostly the hiring process and, more importantly, having those people best equipped to handle a particular job as opposed to hardcore racing executives, or those walking on eggshells in the shadows of these- their mother superiors who had jumped the gun- trying to be what they’re not.
Management by fear creates shrinkage.
Management through ignorance creates chaos.
Let’s face it, when a Director of Racing or a Financial Controller, somehow falls through the cracks, and gets involved in marketing or music or tries to tap into the psyche of the New Millennia through social media, one ends up with a dog’s breakfast sitting on top of what has become an eight-humped camel.
Marketing is a word used by racing clubs often while “marketing to the younger race goer” or “marketing to the next generation of racing” has become a daily mantra and, often, vapid soundbites to the media- that very small hardcore posse in the racing media.
Here’s the problem: “marketing” cannot work without a Creative Director guiding the ship so it doesn’t hit any icebergs along the way.
Like way too many music companies- and the music industry is a far more creative-driven one than horse racing- the role of a Creative Director and the team needed to ensure ideas are effectively executed and approved are rarely on any organisation charts.
Marketing is derived and dependent on the Creative Product, and if this Creative Product originates out of committee decisions and approval processes, and in the case of horse racing, with wagering hanging over the heads of the creative process, it all becomes gobbledygook- bland communications put out there for the sake of it and ignored by the end consumer.
And if all these marketing efforts are ignored by the end consumer who dismiss it as the equivalent of wall paper muzak, no amount of social media or that antiquated term known as “PR” will help.
“PR” in 2014 and in a DIY world of free social media??? Please.
When we started http://www.fasttrack.hk, the strategy was, and still is, to bring an alternative look at horse racing to the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday audience- younger, cooler, well-traveled, in the know and who enjoy fashion, music, technology, cuisine, wines- and are taking quicker and quicker baby steps into the world of horse racing.
It’s an inter-active lifestyle site that’s re-inventing itself and which works closely with the HKJC’s marketing people to think and say and do and create what might otherwise get caught up in the red tape, bureaucracy and “counter productive creativity” prevalent in the inner workings of your typical racing club.
In music industry terms, it’s like a major music company having an indie label to work with artists considered too outré while looking at non-traditional business streams and offering sponsors more bangs for their bucks- new bangs. And gawd knows how exciting a new bang can be.
Hopefully, this “outside looking in approach” of racing clubs working with partners outside of the box that houses the stables catches on.
It can actually set free the “racing people” to do what they do best instead of trying to be what they are not, like, for example, getting involved in advertising and thinking what an ad should look like because they’ve watched Season 3 of “Mad Men” or suddenly knowing music marketing ‘cos they watch “The Voice”.
Racing clubs are exactly that- racing clubs- and cannot be part-time ad agencies, part-time production houses and sometime-music marketing people.
It will never work as most racing clubs are already fragmented enough when it comes to the business side of the sport, and all the ways needed to make horse racing and those who are its main attractions tick and hum- the owners, the trainers, the jockeys, the equine talent, the venues, the race tracks, the prize money, sponsorship…
Who knows, with the HKJC, and with its Happy Wednesday USP and brand, www. fasttrack.hk might just evolve into an enterprising, consumer-driven mothership that takes horse racing to where it’s never gone before- and re-brand the sport in the process to attract that wider mainstream market.
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