By Hans Ebert

Twitter might be a good place to visit, but as for being somewhere to stay and multiply and be part of the marketing for horse racing?

At least when it comes to horse racing in Hong Kong, Twitter is necessary in the media mix of online delivery platforms for news updates. But its effectiveness to interact with horse racing fans and jockeys has changed completely from what it was five years ago. The engagement isn’t there.

Was it only four years ago that the HKJC’s Mr Bubbles and the self-proclaimed know-it all of the Twitterverse flew out to Kong Kong around twenty “influencers”, mainly from the States because of the number of their “followers” to tweet about the Hong Kong International Races?

Was this successful or another exercise in flatulence? Other than some self-promotion and the “awesomeness” of being in Hong Kong, most of these “influencers” enjoyed their free trip out here. “Influencers”, influenza, whatever, one saw at that time the “effectiveness” of everyone tweeting the same thing. This need for “influencers” has never been repeated.

There’s either been a migration from Twitter by dyed in the wool racing fans, especially those over fifty, to Facebook, or, like a number of jockeys who were once rabid Twitterers, moving to Instagram.

Think uploading horse racing videos on YouTube is going to work? Don’t be silly. Even music videos by well-known artists are ignored by audiences visiting a medium visited who are mainly under 16 or those enjoying randomness and cute cats. Tricks of the trade like this? Would you really bother absorbing all this?

Extremely selective about their presence on Twitter these days are Zac Purton, Karis Teetan, who’s all but disappeared from the delivery platform and Chad Schofield. A number of others might have Twitter accounts, but these are largely dormant.

Facebook offers more “airtime” than the 140 words or less Twitter mantra and more opportunities to interact. Joao Moreira, who certainly knows how to market himself, is on Facebook. But in Chinese.

As for Instagram, it’s more immediate. With the focus on short-form “visual stories” and a prime example of how one picture is worth a thousand words, it’s also younger, more cool, more INSTANT, and with more of a community appeal.

This brings one back to the old question as to what REALLY works to market horse racing?

Of course everything hinges on the idea and for racing clubs to understand and admit to themselves that the Unique Selling Point needed to broaden that customer base has yet to be found.

Right now, apart from aligning its racing product with a KOL- Key Opinion Leader- and, if possible, riding on their coat tails, there’s nothing there to attract those on social media to ever think of typing in and searching for “horse racing”. Even if they did, what would they find there?

Winx, Frankie Dettori, Black Caviar, Royal Ascot, the Melbourne Cup might have been or are great for horse racing fans, but that’s where they stay.

This might shock some in horse racing, but there are millions who know diddley squat about any of the aforementioned- and are not interested to find out more.

Some might say that the same can be said about cricket or tennis or football or basketball. They’re wrong.

Other than already having huge followings, like music and movies, these sports actually have their own KOLs who appeal across the board- Ronaldo, Messi, Liverpool FC, Federer, Nadal, Virat Kohli, LeBron James etc- often mix with other KOLs and work with super brands like Nike, Adidas, YSL, Red Bull etc plus the delivery platforms themselves. It’s a numbers game.

Social Media Value: Virat Kohli’s sponsored Instagram post valued at ₹ 82.5 lakh – INSIDE SPORT

Who does horse racing have batting for them when it comes to name brands that can actually enhance the image of a pastime that’s still to be recognised as a sport?

Maybe this is the core problem. Maybe. Or maybe, horse racing is still to shed that albatross known as gambling?

Gambling and social media don’t mix. It’s anti social. It’s not exactly friendly or fashionable. It looks and sounds as old as a James Cagney movie. Horse racing is not exactly “John Wicks” or “The Avengers”. Can it be?

Right now, racing clubs using social media come across as doing something to show that they’re not being left out and often unnecessary paper work to meet various KPIs. Like every other industry, it’s simply following everybody else on social media because it’s now become a mandatory in a marketing plan.

What’s too often seen are ineffective and bland messages bordering on the cornball and with zero impact when competing for attention against brands and celebrities who have armies of bona fide marketing experts keeping their names relevant and constantly enhancing their brands.

What’s the answer? It’s might be in the photograph below which shows how to marry two different types of horsepower with product placement, sponsorship and the effectiveness of working with global KOLs.

Social media can never ever work in isolation and as a one-trick pony. It needs a good old fashioned and targeted advertising and promotions strategy BEFORE “being on social media”.

Social media is about bringing together all the pieces that fit. All the pieces that are relevant to your audience- current and new.

It’s about thinking smart instead of just doing to “make the numbers” for internal purposes. That’s completely missing the point. And not engaging the viewer.

Again, really look at the photo below. It’s an extremely clever branding exercise on so many levels.

#horseracing #socialmedia #marketing #HKracing #Instagram #twitter #Ronaldo #KOL #Kohli #LewisHamilton