By Hans Ebert
Visit: www.fasttrack.hk

When we embarked on what became creating the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Happy Wednesday nights at the iconic Happy Valley Racecourse, no one could have prepared us for the journey that lay ahead and what a game changer it became in the world of horse racing.

It was a pretty small team. I had just left EMI Music. It was falling apart at the time. So when Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, below, CEO of the HKJC who had the vision to see what more the Happy Valley track could be, asked if I had any thoughts on bringing something new to the party, there was nothing to think twice about: Why not? Always up for a new challenge.

While others still talk about the need to attract “younger people” to the races, we did it- not once or twice a year by dangling the carrot of a random showcase by a pop act after the last race of the day had been run, but every Wednesday night. This quickly became the most popular mid-week break and meeting place in Hong Kong for twentysomethings at the city’s most popular open air club.

It also stopped horse racing continuing to gallop inside its own bubble, but largely ignored by the rest of the world.

Everyone came together. The casual race goer and many who had never stepped onto a racetrack were attracted enough to attend a Happy Wednesday, enjoyed the experience and came back for more.

Having been in advertising and an executive with two major music companies, what was important was to look outside of the square.

Marketing Happy Wednesday was probably the first time that racing explored the online world- at that time- mainly MySpace and YouTube- and created and produced original content- music, short form content etc- for different online platforms that gradually came on stream.

This content was to reach those who are rarely on Twitter which continues to be the Go To social media platform for those in horse racing- the older and more hardcore racing fan.

Happy Wednesday also had a cast that came together organically as was the experience they helped create.

Regulars were Hong Kong residents from all around the world. Tourists dropped in to see what it was all about and soak up the atmosphere.

There were celebrities travelling through Hong Kong who joined everyone else and talked about it when they returned home. Word of mouth advertising is still the most effective.

There was the ‘live’ music at the Beer Garden and Adrenaline. The unique design of the racecourse made it possible for those new to attending a race meeting get up close and personal with the jockeys. They became fans of Zac and Joao and Karis and Chad and others. In turn, these guys enjoyed engaging with others their own age.

Many forget that most jockeys are below thirty. They are fans of music and fashion and having a good time when going out. The one difference is that they ride horses for a living. Though we knew better than to bother them on a race day, they have always been giving of their time.

On the Happy Wednesday menu were themed nights, conga lines of fun, fashionistas. What was made available was almost endless.

The video below is the first in a series where we return to those Happy Wednesday nights.

Of course, the big question is whether these nights will return. I believe that they will. Of course with all the changes that have taken place and continue to take place, baby steps will be taken. Doing this wouldn’t be that different to when our Happy Wednesday journey began.

Baby steps always lead to places we never dreamed we’d go. But we somehow get there. And now we’re ready to move forward again and let happiness and positivity and conscience be our guides.

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