By Hans Ebert

It’s about understanding what makes anyone come horse racing, especially in this day and age where so many have a buffet of leisure activities available to them 24/7. It’s a complex question to answer to get one’s head around. And even if answered, there are more questions to answer. Inquisitive minds need to know.

Many who show up for a Happy Wednesday at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong make up a wildly interesting and very different customer demographic. They’re fascinating beasts. Do they come for the horse racing or the on course experience? If a betting person, one would say the latter. They’re still learning about the racing caper and are risk averse. They’re suspicious. Integrity in racing almost needs a complete overhaul. Drop the word “almost”. Frankly, horse racing might just need to completely reinvent itself to appeal to them and hand them the reins to make the most of what will always be a pastime.

This is a very international group. Young. Entrepreneurial. Always questioning. Part of the evolution and new internationalism of Hong Kong. Maybe the world. It’s more than horse racing. Nothing today stands still “just for horse racing”. Racing clubs and those who run them better start understanding. Especially if it’s ever going to be part of the much bigger world of sports entertainment. It’s more than building a new car park for Members. How’s this relevant to this age group? Most don’t even own a car. There are trams and mini buses to get around. Maybe share a taxi.

This demographic, at least in Hong Kong, and mainly happy being in the Beer Garden, hardly fits into the category of “Crazy Rich Asians”. That group, more often than not overseas educated Hong Kong-born Chinese, is present. They’re not Singaporean Chinese. But they’re there. Either in private boxes or seated at their own tables in Members Only venues with like-minded people. Or they’re with mummy and daddy who might have horses running on any particular race meeting.

They understand the lay of the land. At least as much as they want to. Some are changing this landscape. What’s present is not for them. They’re too tech savvy to simply accept another generation’s hand-me-downs. Like some app that they haven’t approved.

Their betting strategy? They don’t have one. Not really. They receive tips from family and friends. A few might hang with trainers and jockeys who might be given mummy and daddy’s horses to look after. They decide how they wish to invest their finances according to whatever meets their budgets. They never chase. If their budgets are blown, there’s the social aspects of horse racing to focus on. They wear designer brands. Not to show off. But because they can. They smell good. Especially the females.

Sometimes, they allow a foreigner into their midst. Meeting mummy and daddy after dating number one daughter for the appropriate amount of time could be a bit like Sydney Poitier’s character in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”. But it’s mind over matter and rolling with the punches. And knowing that you’ve entered very different real estate.

In the Beer Garden, meanwhile, the very international crowd, absorb it all- the ‘live’ music, dancing the night away, meeting new people, eating, drinking, asking various “What ifs” from those who might have a smattering of knowledge about horse racing. From here they might decide to participate in this game of chance.

Not for them are tipsters and spending time watching tipping programmes or visiting the HKJC website. That’s old school. They’re new school. And being new school, these customers, consumers, or however one might wish to refer to them, play by their own rules. No one can second guess them.

This is a group that insists on doing things their own way and turning things inside out. If they wish to describe a jockey’s silks as a blouse, so be it. If they think the same horses run in every race, don’t think they’re daft. And if they can’t be bothered with horse racing apps, odds and sods and have zero interest in being able to understand the totalisator, that’s their prerogative. Think of it like reading a menu in French if not understanding French.

As has been mentioned here, they don’t come racing, especially on a Happy Wednesday to attend The School Of Puntology. They’re at the races to have fun. Remember fun? The fun of winning is a bonus. It’s not the be all and end all of a day at the races.

Again, those running racing clubs or given the job of marketing to an age group that is the future of horse racing need to understand this. Really understand this. Where does it go very wrong?

It’s about understanding the difference between many generation gaps. Earth to Amanda Elliott. Helloooo. It’s understanding that one size or one big Members hat doesn’t fit all. That these are irrelevant. That these are more of the same for the same old group of hardcore race goers who really don’t need convincing. They’re lifelong Members of Puntology and wannabe elitism.

In Hong Kong, there are those who might be impressed with designer brands and five star dining. There’s also the very same age group who want nothing to do with that lifestyle. It’s just not for them. It’s not unlike music. Some might like Dua Lipa or Ed Sheeran. Others might like what they hear in the music of Tash Sultana. It’s about offering different rides for different folks.

It’s a tough crowd to please. They’re not easily impressed. What’s there in horse racing to impress this generation waiting in the wings and ready to take flight? But to where? And who are the travel guides? How new fashioned are they? Or are they more of the same and blindly following briefs to recruit new members? And then? This. Does. Not. Work. Any. More. It belongs in the Eighties. With the Village People.

Can’t speak for the current generations in other countries. Only an idiot would try to do that. But when it comes to Hong Kong, there’s a pretty good understanding of how horse racing might be able to reach this market. And how reaching this market and knowing its “sub divisions” will attract new sponsors that can give the pastime a new ‘look’. Ammunition for the future. Making a difference.

First of all, however much those in racing who claim to want change waffle on about this, they must allow change. No interference allowed. Hypocritical batteries not included. This only shows the need for control only and either a lack of confidence in those hired. Or simply wanting more Sheeples.

This is very possibly why even younger hires are so sadly out of sync with those they’re trying to convince that horse racing is for them.

Where is the groundbreaking content available online and off course? What does it look like? Sound like? How is it not more of the sons and daughters of Fashions On The Field? These must have been around since before Esther Williams had a swimsuit.

Can’t there be two very different marketing strategies and content for the existing racing product? Even commingling? Think about it. Don’t just dismiss it because it’s something not understood. Or something not done before. Over and over again.

Instead of “television adverts”, what else could there be? If short form programming, what’s the content? What’s the medium of the message? And messages?

Surely it’s about simplifying everything? Remember that we’re talking about Hong Kong. Impatient, international, extremely different Hong Kong. One city. Many different markets to cater to. Strategically.

If we here can make a difference and parlay this into something more, it might just provide other racing jurisdictions with even a soupçon of an idea not to continue being the one or two off plodder that it is. And living in a past that no longer exists.

Having said this, the odds of the same Indie spirit and creative explosion that came out of nowhere, especially during the Sixties, and completely changed music and fashion and movies and society might just be bubbling under the surface. It’s high time.

It might put an end to much of what is with us and has many imprisoned by its cons and self-delusional self-importance.

Get rid of these “delivery platforms”. Or use them to move your ideas forward and we might have a chance. This isn’t Animal Farm. But it is an Orwellian society. We just don’t know how many Big Brothers are watching and controlling us. Bummed out? Should be.

Right now, social media is not just a distraction. It has created chaos, confusion and turned many into slaves to technology. Break free from it. It’s a start. Then create new product. Enough of the talk. The procrastinating. And the “work in progress” that doesn’t progress beyond some stupid DM from people who have nothing whatsoever to do with you.

We need to find the Me in Us. Screw the number of online “followers”. They’re all the children of John Lennon’s Nowhere Man.

#HKracing #GoracingHK #HappyWednesdayHK #horseracing #marketing #CrazyRichAsians #socialmedia #NewThinking #SteveJobs