By Hans Ebert

It really can’t continue in isolation. It shouldn’t. There’s got to be a coming together for the greater good of the sport. And here, I’m talking about horse racing, where despite all these “international challenges” and “international races”, there’s precious little evidence of a global horse racing community.

If horse racing is to come even close to competing with every other sport, except perhaps for lawn bowls and, yes, curling, for awareness, eyeballs, relevance and not being seen a plodding also-ran for compulsive gamblers, there really needs what us in advertising call a two-pronged marketing strategy.

This strategy should include one for local audiences, and the other which showcases horse racing globally in a positive and entertaining manner. Remember entertainment?

Pollyanna-type thinking? Possibly. This global racing community can never happen? Depends.

Of course one cannot market what isn’t there. But like the once popular NOW series of compilation CDs where the major music companies HAD to come together despite being competitors for the same consumer dollar.

They had form partnerships to share hits from each other for this one incredibly successful series of CDs which grew to be much more.

NOW helped sales of every music company involved. We worked out our differences with everyone having the chance to have a bite of the same pie.

If racing clubs can work out how and where to share and highlight ITS “hits” and back stories together and as an industry, even Gary West’s US$20 million Kentucky Derby Challenge, well, it could be the start of a beautiful friendship. It might have to be a friendship that happens at arm’s length, but it needs to happen for the present and future of the sport.

Social media has brought the world closer together than ever before. And in a far quicker way. For any consumer-driven business, there’s a nanu second to grab one’s attention. It’s the New Advertising and the New Marketing and happening online. It’s looking at everything in a new way as things like television and print advertising are no longer relevant. It’s also why there’s Netflix.

Look at all the constantly changing of content that goes on, especially on Instagram. Blink and it’s gone. Football/soccer and basketball know how to use Instagram strategically, effectively and in a consumer friendly manner. So does Formula 1. Cricket? No. Tennis? No. Golf? Yes, because of Tiger Woods recently winning the Masters. Many took advantage of that win led by Nike.

With one picture worth a thousand words, those experienced marketers know what content- their hits such as Ronaldo, Messi, Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James- KOLs aka Key Opinion Leaders- can bring to the table. Like what? Like awareness, sponsorship appeal, popularity, sales and relevance.

When Mark Zuckerberg bought Instagram, it was for a reason. He knew that the moment Mums and Dads went onto Facebook, the millennials or Gen X, Y and Z would migrate elsewhere. Someplace more hip and immediate. Like Instagram.

Sure, there’s a role for horse racing on Facebook and Twitter where it’s largely about uploading racing content for that more mature and captive audience.

Twitter is the online equivalent of the racing section of a newspaper with news in 140 words or less. It’s hardly mind blowing content and as exciting as watching talking wobble heads trying to guess what horse might win a race. But, I am told there’s a loyal audience for this stuff. Whatever…

Still, why not mix things up by bringing in those with no interest in horse racing with one visual of Kendall Jenner on horseback? Or having a bit of fun with Joao Moreira? What’s there to lose?

Knowing something about the marketing strategies of music companies and the music industry, Facebook is often an anathema to them.

Facebook is old and tired and artists don’t want to be there. It doesn’t work for their fan base. It doesn’t work for them unless a touring nostalgia act needing to attract an older audience.

What works for most acts is Instagram. It works incredibly well for “Ellen” and the television show because of her guests. Even if it’s an egg. Irrelevance can work. Really.

Recently, there was a three day pre-show countdown on Instagram to announce that Taylor Swift would be her guest. Of course it worked.

Last week, apart from Miss Swift, there were effective ten-second spots featuring George Clooney and Keanu Reeves.

Can horse racing compete for attention against these world famous names? It can’t. But it doesn’t mean resorting to internal navel gazing and trying to be “hip” where hipness doesn’t exist. Not right now, anyway.

Know who in horse racing is using Instagram for his new career and business as a trainer better than anyone in the game? Douglas Whyte. Sure, it’s self-promotion but Whyte is a savvy marketer of himself. There’s nothing wrong with this. Some can learn from Douglas Whyte about talking softly, carrying a big stick and getting results.

In Zac Purton, and Joao Moreira, however, the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday brand with activities like Hannah Butler, below, bringing fashionistas on course, and everything else which can easily have a rub off on the pretty much faceless image of racing at Shatin, plus the ageless Frankie Dettori, and Hugh Bowman, there are starting points. Building blocks.

There’s absolutely no way of knowing who and what else from the horse racing buffet could attract those either new to the sport or completely in the dark as to how it all works. There can’t be preconceived ideas of how consumers think. Consumers don’t like being force fed anything. They know what they want.

This is why consumer generated content that often comes out of competition driven campaigns are the most credible. The rest depends on the message and the medium.

Another thing: If horse racing is to market its hits, racing clubs can’t keep the door shut if sponsors and other business partners come knocking. There’s a need to have those who understand the art of the deal and creating win-win situations.

The marketing of horse racing has historically been a hodgepodge of random news going all over the place and racing stories, no matter how well written, dismissed by most as being too much of a chore to wade through.

No one has the time anymore for anything because there’s, well, too much of everything. The fact that Trump communicates by tweeting is not something stupid. He understands the importance of immediacy. Does horse racing?

On Friday night and somewhere in Melbourne, two new inductees into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame were jockeys Brent “The Babe” Thomson and Hugh Bowman who will be forever associated with Winx.

Who outside the world of horse racing new about any of this? Would they have cared? Maybe. But where were the bells and whistles? It was just another wasted opportunity to market horse racing. But why? Never mind.

There are many wasted opportunities. Too many. Why? Many reasons, the major one being that many of those hired by racing clubs to market their product might be fairly knowledgeable racing executives, but who are clueless about marketing in this day and age.

Having read some of these marketing presentations, there are very many words, but dig deeper and, more often than not, it’s superficial bollocks. It’s piffle and waffle.

Marketing- strategic marketing- is a combination of experience, creativity and that certain something called intuition.

One cannot learn nor copy intuition. You either have it or you don’t. And if trying to hide this fact, what comes out is as irrelevant as a selfie stick. This quickly becomes obvious.

Racing clubs have two many selfie sticks with their priority being self promotion. And self promotion doesn’t lead to uncovering and marketing horse racing’s hits- that version of NOW That’s What I Call Horse Racing.

NOW is not about yesterday.

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