By Hans Ebert

Being in marketing, there’s a sense of both excitement mixed with frustration and a deep sense of resignation when one sees everything Zac Purton keeps pulling out of his hat.

It was another six winners at Sha Tin on Sunday to add to the six winners he rode there the Sunday before plus the double on Wednesday and, lest one forgets, the win in Singapore aboard Hong Kong’s Southern Legend.

One can’t help thinking how a success story like this can enhance the image of horse racing and force it to break free from the shackles it often clasps on itself.

For myself, writing about these successes, there’s a distinct whiff of déjà vu. How does one say the same thing differently? Over and over again?

How, that as this is horse racing, is this as good (and as creative) as it gets? A few tweets saying the same thing? Maybe the obligatory interview for a racing programme? Another “article” in the racing pages of a newspaper?

In other words, continue to sing from the same hymn book to the usual choir in horse racing. That already captive audience.

This, sadly, is considered “marketing” in horse racing parlance. It’s why something many don’t even consider to be a sport is stuck in the past along with memories, videos of races, but never “dressed up” to create anything close to being breakthrough. And in keeping with “tradition”, lame presentation ceremonies, the obligatory winning photographs, and the “new” cornball idea of having the “winning connections” photographed giving the Thumbs Up sign. One wishes someone would go rogue and give The Two Finger Salute.

Let’s not even get into most of the totally inane on course chit chat from “presenters” that fall on deaf ears. All the time and money spent on those vapid tipping shows. That “content” which, instead of being a few nanu seconds of providing some numbers by supposedly knowledgeable racing pundits, are stretched out to something like over an hour of self-indulgent rubbish that takes, at least this viewer, to the days of black and white television series like “Zorro”, “The Saint”, and “Ivanhoe”.

Just to keep boredom in check IF stumbling across this programming, changing the mindset into thinking I am watching an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus helps.

What Zac Purton is doing on course in the Here and Now is new. He’s broken the mould. He’s Django unchained. He’s the new Frankie Dettori. Of course, Frankie Dettori is as relevant as ever to a different generation of racing fans. His back story of ups, downs and getting up again and exorcising those demons that’s been part of his life has created an image. It’s not been an easy ride for this legend.

Same goes for Zac. The unknown who arrived in Hong Kong had to prove himself by competing and winning against some of the biggest names in horse racing riding in the city at the time. The red carpet was hardly rolled out for him. Did he think of giving up and leaving? Sure he did. But he shook off that negativity. He’s worked damn hard to get to where he is today. The love and support of a good woman does that.

Today, he’s racing away from the rest of the pack. Regularly. Even making someone as talented as Joao Moreira look like a magic man who’s lost his powers. The Zac Attack is his kryptonite. It’s the Roadrunner versus Wily E Coyote. Beep beep.

There’s a huge marketing story and some great opportunities here. For example, Zac Purton should be all over Instagram. Not only Twitter which horse racing clubs should know by now is only an online substitute for the racing pages of a newspaper. It’s for immediate news.

It’s not for showcasing someone who is giving horse racing, and especially the HKJC, the best and most relevant “consumer generated content” there is.

But how would they use Instagram? How many racing clubs even use Instagram? And even if they do, how effective are the messages for this medium?

If this job is in the hands of senior racing executives and hires based on their idea of who are good marketers, well, Whitney Houston, we might just have a problem.

It could be back to the egg and racing clubs talking to themselves with the only sounds heard being “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.” There’s way too much “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb”. Lots of “doing”, but nothing much to show for it. Just more of the same.

It’s easy to say how this and that is “good for racing”. Often, it’s not.

Zac Purton IS good for racing because, apart from an interesting back story, the thirtysomething Australian rider has a personality.

Detractors might call it arrogance, but total confidence and success often exudes an air of superiority.

Think about Lewis Hamilton. Cocky? Arrogant? Maybe. Now think of Formula One racing without him. It would lose a major part of its audience- even those who have no interest in fast cars and horsepower.

Lewis Hamilton is not exactly Stirling Moss or Graham Hill. Lewis Hamilton is far more Drake. He’s about today.

Like those behind the Lewis Hamilton brand do, the Zac Purton brand must be taken seriously. It can’t be more cookie cutter thinking.

Where are the gifs of The Zac Attack? Where’s perhaps an animated version of the rider? Ever thought about the impact of animation? For horse racing? On every online delivery platform? Think that this marketing move will not be seen as groundbreaking and not picked up by global advertising and marketing names like Adweek and Adage?

In Zac Purton, horse racing and the HKJC have a golden goose. And this golden goose can evolve to bring so much more to horse racing with Hong Kong as its backdrop.

Think of short form animation or an ongoing animation series with music and a cast of characters- characters who those not in horse racing would find interesting. Like who? Like new consumer groups, a new generation of sponsors, new business partners, and creative talent with something new to bring to horse racing.

It’s time to get off the merry-go-round taking horse racing nowhere new. Just around and around and around in circles.

Zac Purton aka The Zac Attack has given horse racing something new with a cherry on top.

One really CAN have their cake and eat it, too. It comes down, however, to knowing what can be instead of putting up the usual roadblocks as to why nothing new cannot happen.

This thinking has been going on for too long. It’s making what should be an exciting and entertaining sport look and sound old and boring.

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