By Hans Ebert

Spent the dreary, weather beaten Sunday watching a few races on television from Shatin. Watching but not interested. There was no hook to involve me. It was like watching the last race simulcast from Newmarket the night before.

Hardly being a dyed-in-the-wool Wikipedia of horse racing, there’s still an enjoyment in learning about it, especially from the auteurs on Twitter. There are some of the Games Of Thrones played out back in the day and still today when bothering to publish Racingbitch for around six long years which had its moments. And a strange cast of characters.

There are the hires and re-hires and comings and goings and musical chairs played by the usual suspects without ever knowing why and what they bring to the party.

Most of all, I like winning on the races. Lots. Who doesn’t?

So, on Sunday, with one television set flickering away with horse racing from Shatin on mute, another television set on a cooking channel which my friend was watching, I was surfing through various commercials.

A number of commercials by Adidas, especially those with a message and those featuring footballer Lionel Messi caught my eye. Why? Because they spoke to me.

Having been a Director of Creative Services when in advertising, breakthrough thinking for any brand or product interests me. It makes me wonder why certain products- and horse racing is a product- are unable to break away from the shackles of continuing to produce the mundane.

When was the last time has there been a commercial for horse racing that made one laugh- for all the right reasons? Can’t remember. Don’t think there’s ever been one. Maybe that time Basil Fawlty had a bet on Dragonfly.

But that wasn’t a commercial. It was a damn good script. Basil should be on Twitter. Maybe he is?

Most of the horse racing commercials produced have me nodding off. It’s probably a personal problem. Other than the consistently high quality work from France Galop, it’s, how you say, formulaic merde.

What’s part of this formula? Shots of early morning track work, a close up of a horse’s nostril to show there’s a nip in the air, close ups of boots, a saddle, hooves, barriers opening, a tracking shot of horses racing, intercuts of inconsequential sound bites from various people before returning to the obligatory slo-mo winning shot with the obligatory fist pump as the funereal music builds, crashes and burns. Methuselah could have churned out these waffles. Where’s the beef, mama?

The champion jockey in Hong Kong is an Australian named Zac Purton.

Unless already following horse racing and a Twitter racing fan boy, no one’s heard of him. No one understands why he’s the superb athlete and world’s best jockey that he is. And if they have no idea who and what a Zac Purton is, there’s every chance, they have no idea about or interest in horse racing and how it just might interest them. It’s not exactly a Eureka moment. Just common sense.

This leads me back to Messi and those Adidas commercials. And other great commercials for sports.

Great commercials for horse racing? No such thing. Just vapidity. And kinda stupid.

While watching a few Adidas commercials, on Instagram, there was a brilliant piece of communications where Messi “apologises”, with tongue firmly planted in right cheek. It’s titled, “Sorry…but not sorry”.

Messi says sorry for the goals he’s scored, his assists, the number of successful free kicks etc etc, I asked my friend, “What do you think of a commercial like this for Zac?” Zac certainly doesn’t lack confidence, something which adds to his brand value. She shook her head. “It’s perfect for Zac, but they’ll never approve the idea. It’s not not something they’re used to. They’ll never understand the humour.”

Then came the denouement: “Why waste your time thinking about something that will never see the light of day?”

Why bother? It’s part of my DNA. It’s the thrill of breaking the pattern. It’s the challenge of jumping into uncharted waters and knowing that you won’t sink. It’s swimming with the sharks and knowing how to bait them.

Horse racing needs a global Wake Up call that introduces itself and its champions to the hundreds of thousands who have no interest in it because racing often does such a crap job of making itself known. It’s called effective, strategic and creative marketing. It’s about knowing the wants and needs and online travels of the consumer.

Think of all those outside of America who wouldn’t know the Kentucky Derby from Kentucky Fried Chicken, but who HAVE read Dr Hunter S Thompson’s brilliant essay on attending the race meeting.

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved – GENIUS.COM

Then again, after the coverage it received yesterday on even global news channels after the winner was disqualified and placed EIGHTEENTH, the Kentucky Derby will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

The odds are that it will get worse before it gets better and that the Rules Of Racing just might need a rewrite.

Again, horse racing is in the news for the wrong reasons. It can’t help itself. The fallout and conspiracy theories surrounding the Kentucky Derby result has given more fodder to racing’s critics, especially the anti gambling lobby and animal care activists. Just wait and see.

As for how horse racing markets itself? Too much navel gazing, too much talking to itself, too much second guessing the consumer- often getting it very wrong- and forgetting how little so many know about its product’s USPs.

It begs the question, Who’s staring a gift horse in the mouth- but not knowing how to package it?

#horseracing #marketing #advertising #Messi #Adidas #ZacPurton #HansEbert #Racingbitch #KentuckyDerby2019