By Hans Ebert

It’s become rhythmic, yet also formulaic these days. Like the struggling musician who starts jamming on some chords with a vague idea of where they might wish to go with a song, there are always some struggling to get that motor running. And when it comes to the big chorus, there is none. Still, the musician keeps banging away despite knowing that none of this is leading anywhere.

The great Frank Zappa with his Mothers Of Invention would kinda take this route very successfully to show the pseudo intellectuality of pop culture and many of us loved him for these satirical freak outs.

However, when a writer, specifically a writer of Hong Kong horse racing, one expects a certain discipline that leads to a point. No one has neither the time nor the patience for a long and winding trip through a bowl of alphabet soup where there might be the A,B,C’s, but nothing close to even being a nursery rhyme.

So when reading the racing pages of the South China Morning Post on Friday and looking at the race card for Sunday, what screamed out was the headline “Jockey Club should follow NFL’s lead on young fans”.

This piqued our interest. Was this another idea on how to attract those “younger people” to the races- and on a regular basis- as opposed to have them turn up to watch a B grade pop star after a race meeting? If so, we’re all ears. But nah.

This was how, in a bid to reach a younger audience, America’s National Football League “partnered up with children’s network Nickelodeon to create a special broadcast of the play-off game between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, complimented by a website with cartoons, trivia and prediction games”. And the point is?

Hong Kong based racing writer Major Tom communicated to Ground Control how this was a kid-centric production featuring stars of the network, regular sightings of SpongeBob SquarePants, special graphics and a lot of slime (virtual and real), while the callers helped explain the intricacies of the game in a way everyone could understand”. And?

Thoughts of the HKJC’s Trackside’s form analyist Paul Lally and three grown men playing with those funky Racing To Win speed maps flashed by like an attack of doo doo from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.

Before having time to catch our breath, Major Tom was galloping off into the open arms of how this programming received rave reviews, and became the highest rated show on Nickelodeon in nearly four years. “It got an enormous amount of traction on social media” boomed Major Tom.

By now, we had kinda lost the plot, especially as we have worked with Viacom, the parent company of not only Nickelodeon, but also MTV Networks. We know something about each channel’s business strategies, objectives, audiences and the business partners with whom they wish to work-in this region.

Whether Nickelodeon or not, many of these channels/brands do not wish to be associated with horse racing. It’s just how it is. Major Tom should know why. Maybe not…

This was when Major Tom’s song started losing any semblance of a melody line…

“Ultimately”, he thundered knowingly, “it’s about making the sport accessible because American football can be incredibly complex. It’s a similar story for racing. For an organisation like the Hong Kong Jockey Club, these are concepts worth exploring”.

Followed was much preaching to the converted and anyone who has worked on the HKJC’s very successful Happy Wednesday brand.

But why change the narrative and let facts get in the way of a plate of waffles, right?

On came, “Providing an alternative for kids and novices when the lights are brightest at a major meeting- say the Hong Kong International Races or the Hong Kong Derby- could have a lot of upside”. Huh? When one has to be over 18 to enter a racecourse in Hong Kong and the two meetings mentioned are sponsored by Longines and BMW? It’s now taking these brands to a kiddie channel like Nickelodeon?

Major Tom was then thunderstruck by a dose of Uh Oh reality bytes- but not before listing out a buffet of hackneyed marketing ideas in line with Racing For Dummies: “But all these ideas come with the same caveat- if the Hong Kong government permits it”.

That’s not the real caveat, Major Tom. Anything to do with marketing, just in case you were having an out of body experience, during these days of lockdowns and the new abnormal, means relearning everything.

Other than relearning how life works, it’s understanding the changes taking place in existing social media platforms and those coming on stream.

It’s about how algorithms work today. It’s understanding the wants and needs of different customer demographics and having the talent with the marketing experience to create content relevant to these markets.

More importantly, at least in this case, it’s about producing original content that makes horse racing in Hong Kong an attractive product to those over 18 with no interest in the game.

With horse racing now a Made For Television product, it needs to be far more entertaining as the viewing habits of anything from home base have changed.

Sorry, mate, but seldom has one read such absolute crap as what was cobbled together.

It was so far out, it crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

The pockmarks of naivety and goofiness and the usual U-turns you keep making when lost and confused couldn’t be hidden. Not this time.

#SouthChinaRacingPost #marketing #hkracing #Nickelodeon #NFL #HappyWednesdayHK #HKJC