Day At The Track

Stop, take a deep breath...What a week it’s been

01:29 PM 14 Feb 2020 NZDT
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I - as well as others - had a chance to see, read and hear about Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal, this past Tuesday Feb. 4, of establishing a new ‘Nellie Bly’ Scholarship Fund by redirecting $204 million of existing tax dollars from the Race Horse Development Trust Fund.  

If this didn't throw the Pennsylvania horse industry under a bus it sure appears that the life line of horse racing in that state is in serious danger.

After taking a few days to think about this and inhaling some very good social media posts from drivers, trainers and people around the industry, I ask you - have we done enough to market our product outside the proverbial four walls?

The sport of racing has been around a very long time and so has it’s outdated form of betting. The long tradition of pari-mutuel wagering just isn't going to cut it any longer and if we don't do anything to change the landscape of our betting, we will have basically killed our sport.

I know the above can't be changed overnight and we have hurdles to leap over, but time is running out. Horse racing has been playing catch up to many things - including sports wagering and before we fall off our own pile of shavings we best start looking at what we need to do as an industry.

Have we done enough to get our product out there? I don't mean self-promotion that you see all over the internet and social media sites - where one promotes themselves - for the good of their own and parlays it off as an industry achievement.

Our industry requires advertising and advertising agency's to focus on creating a demand for our brand.

Selective advertising is not the path we should be looking to follow. Selective advertising can be deceptive to lure one into a false belief. This past month in TROT magazine I can point out where one breeding operation takes a shot at another and in a recent online article you can find similar being done on the Standardbred Canada website. Can’t we sit the children down and remind them that they are the same people who - as one owner said - are suing the province/government over lost breeding dollars from the SARP cancellation?

Let me tug on the right line and get you back to selective advertising.

Selective advertisers assume there is an existing demand and we see that inside our race tracks with as Casino Operators luring people in with gifts and gift promotions. Give people something for free and they will take it all day long - does that mean value added? Maybe for a casino, but as far as Return On Investment (ROI) for tracks – I’d have to say no!

We as an industry need to get racetrack owners and operators to join in. We need to make not just good marketing moves, but great marketing decisions - if we are going to compete for the wagering dollar.

Where do we get the funds to do this? 

Let’s take a percentage of purse funds and let’s look at selling outside advertising campaigns - to generate cash flow from outside the four walls. 

We as individuals are so great at selling the game to one another, but selling this to someone already involved in the sport is like selling water to a camel - when it doesn't want or need to drink.

I can sit here all day and make you believe I'm going to bring thousands of people to the sport - by doing something that's hasn't been done yet, but before we jump in - hand over fist - is there going to be any ROI? I have yet to see the cards dealt, but I'm sure a couple of email blasts aren't going to do it… Nor will a few gifts - so to speak

Legit marketing firms will tell you this industry needs proposed changes. The industry leaders have to make things - such as past performances - free and available to EVERYONE!  

When I want stats to bet a basketball game - I can get tons of information free, for that sport, without having to spend a dime.

I betting you'd be hard pressed to point out when the last article you read, on our sport, actually had a positive movement to make you (or someone reading it) want to get out and watch live horse racing.

I challenge you to walk around in a circle and find a corner, let me know when you have successfully completed that mission.

Deception and illusion are great tools - just as David Copperfield and Criss Angel have shown in the past.

If you want to use the phrase ‘outside the box’ then start creating a primary advertising focus and demand - on this general product called horse racing. It all starts there and make sure to get the product out to those who aren’t already a prodigy of the sport.

We are all ‘addicts’ to the sport we breathe. I hate to use the word ‘addicts’, but we are IMHO. The industry needs help and we need it fast. Imagine sitting at a McDonalds - eating a Big Mac - and then I walk over to you to try and convince you that a Big Mac is the best - so just keep coming to McDonalds.

I hope you get the analogy of that.

Back on Feb 4th, of this year, driver Yannick Gingras said the following on social media - after the announcement of Tom Wolf’s proposal… “Let’s all get together and promote our wonderful sport before it’s too late.”

His key word there was ‘together’. 

Our sport, right now, is like watching an episode of survivor - where it's every man and/or woman for themselves… Where - in the end - they all point their fingers at each other... Hopefully horse racing doesn’t come down to this.

As a fan and part-time owner - I won't sit here and preach that I am a marketing firm and I have a ‘100% sure proof solutions’ to solve this, but at the same time - I will tell you what we are missing and it's because I see it daily and have spoken to groups who see it too.

Three to five times a year we have the mainstream media actually paying attention to horse racing and I don’t need to list what events those are.

I'm sure everyone has their idea of what works best, but remember most ideas are like armpits - we all have them and most stink.

People can't come to the races if they don't know about it. More often than not, no one knows what is going on at their local track - unless they are on the inside looking out.

Think about that last statement for a bit.

We, as an industry, are promoting horse racing to people who are already a part of the sport - so how can we expect it to grow? We can't grow it like that…

by Lou Sorella, for Harnesslink

 
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