By Hans Ebert
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

If someone who follows horse racing religiously and does the form, understands handicapping, track conditions, times, odds, track work etc, everything that follows below is not for you.

You’re what racing clubs put in the “hardcore” basket and say they know exactly your wants and needs and cater to all of these. Maybe.

Some might say that this is pretty narrow minded thinking- continuing to preach to the converted. But if this captive audience continues to make turnover tick and tock, why fix the wheel when it ain’t broke?

Why?

Well, coming from the music industry, and having seen this wheel fall off when music fans understood how to get music for free and saw the compact disc along with a music channel like MTV in its death throes- all those superficial VJs seeing their fifteen minutes of fame go up in flames was awful to watch- nothing is ever what it seems. Or goes according to plan. The consumer is always in the driver’s seat.

Reading the minds of today’s consumers- and the two generation before- there’s often the feeling that we might have lost something along the way. And didn’t see that oncoming train.

All this talk by racing clubs about now having the obligatory ‘live’ music- usually after the last race has been run- and knowing the number of “younger people” on course for a race meeting like The Everest- but how?- booking some random act already on tour because costs will be down as it’s about availability etc is talk straight outta One Flew Outta The Cuckoo’s Nest.

They’re daft sound bites for those specifically in the Australian racing media with the blinkers on and “salaried” hacks who know that their ability in making the industry more than what it is is, well, beyond them.

Many have been around too TVN long. And what Change have they brought? Some moribund website? The usual handwringing reportage for that same audience on Twitter who are now ten or twenty years older? The same old falsely earnest serving of supercilious meatballs?

Then there’s that audience- engaging and banging away about the same old things while The Teflon People just carry on and slip and slide their way through attending junkets like the recent Longines International Races weekend in Hong Kong. These are the people who say they know how “younger people” think.

From the outside looking in, the future of horse racing is at a crossroads. Increasing prize money, creating gimmick races might be “innovative”, but then so was the hula hoop. And the yoyo.

Yes, to survive there’s a need to change. But change must come with relevance.

How many racing clubs actually communicate with these “younger people”? These “younger people”, many of whom believe that the same horses run in every race and probably think the totalisator is some weird reminder of how ET came to earth?

Their expectations from horse racing are simple. To win. Lose, and more than likely, they’ll leave the party. Losing on anything is a concept that’s alien to them.

Let’s not forget that this is a generation born into the online world. It’s all about following and followers and often not understanding why or questioning anything. It’s going with the flow. Or through the floor. Often it’s a tribal thing.

Fake fame and “likes” are accepted because no one is telling them that it’s a con. Maybe they don’t know? That the tail is wagging the dog and how it’s all about being given free content which generates more numbers to these data driven delivery platforms. What are they delivering? Your content. Does this content resonate with others? Probably not.

Today, music is streamed. Old school bloggers trying desperately to be relevant bang on about the benefits of music streaming site Spotify. And, sure, for a small subscription fee, there’s all the music one wants to hear. Overkill? Too much of a good thing? Devalues music?

For the unknown artist, they have a platform to have their music PERHAPS heard around the world. Sounds good. That’s the come on. But how if no one has heard of you? Who do they search for? Surely, said unknown artist is lost amongst the clutter of all the other music being streamed?

Unlike the days of Radio Ga Ga, there’s no disc jockey to introduce who’s coming up next. Like your music.

Horse racing can learn from this: If uninterested in horse racing why should anyone search for it in the online world? Because of a…hashtag? Maybe. But surely it’s gotta be a hashtag that breaks away from the herd?

Some might stumble upon on it, and if they do, what’s there? And for them to explore further, what’s the payoff? There’s always got to be a payoff.

The marketing of horse racing, like many other businesses do, must offer this customer segment a payoff for their efforts. For free. Something to encourage return visits. Not anything tacky and belonging in the old world. Something that surprises them. And not like Chuckie. Something that offers a sense of belonging. Safety. Fun. Entertainment.

This is needed to first pique their interest. If interested, they will attend a race meeting. Not any race meeting, but one where they feel that there’s something there for THEM. Not for everyone. Something exclusive to THEM. Not some meaningless corporate token gesture. Something that will make them regulars.

It still however comes down to why anyone would even be aware of something that doesn’t interest them.

Use KOLs? Key Opinion Leaders. Sure. And who outside of racing could be used to guide their followers to horse racing? Kanye?

Ever thought of using what has been forgotten as an advertising medium to advertise what is needed to be advertised to drive traffic? Remember the good old SMS- Short Message Service- as a reminder? Using the huge database of the service provider? Making a simple text creative and interactive?

In Hong Kong, a key motivator in the popularity of the Happy Wednesday brand at Happy Valley racecourse is fashion- showing attractive people wearing cool fashions at the races.

Attractive people attract other attractive people. And those who aspire to be part of this club. There’s a domino effect.

The most effective medium for this message? Instagram and SnapChat. And as always, word of mouth. Spreading the word as to why a Happy Wednesday evening is a REGULAR Must Attend event. Imagine somehow linking this with a Kendall Jenner or a Gigi Hadid?

Ten, twenty, hell, maybe five years from now, many of those knee deep in horse racing today won’t be here. They’ll be with those ghost riders in the sky. These aforementioned “younger people” will be running the show. If interested enough in doing so.

Perhaps they will see something in horse racing that gives it the “newness” it needs? A more powerful magnet. Of course this depends on the world we leave for them.

Merry Christmas!

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