We all know that harness racing lacks in the marketing department on almost every front. However, I have recently noticed that many organizations are lacking even with the most basic marketing techniques, such as websites and social media.
For instance, The Little Brown Jug's official Twitter account was posting about the event in the months leading up to race day. However, it suddenly stopped ten days before the big day. The final tweet issued by the account was "10 Days until the Little Brown Jug 2013!!! #LBJ13."
This was a huge missed opportunity to interact with the tens of thousands of people who attended the Little Brown Jug. If they had tweeted more aggressively about the races, including facts about contenders, race results, exciting news, photos, and most importantly, fan polls and questions, then more people would have been engaged in the event.
In addition, posters and signs promoting the Little Brown Jug twitter account could have been placed around the grounds in order to gain more followers. People in charge need to realize that when the average person at the fair follows their account, every time a tweet is sent that person will see it in their feed and think about harness racing, even if they never normally would.
I contacted Phil Terry, the Director of Marketing at the Little Brown Jug, and he admitted that he was not even aware that anything had been tweeted at all, but said that he would "try finding someone to be tweeting on a consistent basis." I am not sure he understands just how important marketing via social media is to the future of racing.
Fortunately, the USTA account was very active on twitter during the Little Brown Jug and did an excellent job promoting the event. However, the vast majority of people attending the event have likely never heard of the USTA and as a result, would not have seen those tweets.
Our big names like the Little Brown Jug have to be actively engaged in social media year round in order to keep people thinking about the sport. They understand this in thoroughbred racing and you can find examples of this concept done correctly by viewing the twitter accounts of the Breeders Cup and Kentucky Derby.
Another major marketing inefficiency I have noticed recently revolves around the Breeders Crown. First of all (and I am not going to sugar coat this), their website is a disgrace. If you search "Breeders Crown" and click on the website, it brings you to a very plain looking page of horseperson's information with no relevant information for fans. Payment forms, eligibles, supplement information. Things no average fan trying to find event information would ever care about.
Ok, let's go back and click on the next link in the search. Now we get the Hambletonian Society's homepage. It's a little better, with links to news stories, blogs, and social media. That's nice, but I still have not found a website dedicated to the Breeders Crown with information for the fans.
We go back to the search and find the USTA's "mini site" for the Breeders Crown. Finally, a decent looking website with fan information.
But wait, this information has not been updated since the conclusion of the 2012 Breeders Crown.
By now you have figured out where I am going with this. One of our biggest events looks like a complete joke online and it would be almost impossible for the average fan to find useful information on the event.
Compare this to the Breeders Cup, the thoroughbred equivalent of the Breeders Crown. We search "Breeders Cup" and click on the first result, "BreedersCup.com." Imagine that, a huge event actually has a dedicated website. Not only that, there is a beautiful design, information on planning your trip, buying tickets, a short biography on every contender for every race, history of the event, fashion. It goes on and on. They get a very important concept. ANYONE who goes on that website has something that will interest them. For example, girls age 18-25, a group horse racing struggles to appeal to, might click on fashion, and suddenly someone who would never think about racing is now doing just that.
What would the same person look at on the Breeders Crown site? Nothing. That's a huge issue that needs to be addressed.
Another issue with the Breeders Crown's marketing is in their social media. I will not go into this too much since many of the things said about the Little Brown Jug can also apply here. I will say though, that the Breeders Crown is fairly active on social media. That is good. However, they seem to create a new profile for the event every year. For example, their twitter name is "Breeders Crown 2013."
The Breeders Crown also still posts Facebook updates under the name "2012 Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack."
Anyone searching for the Breeders Crown would come across that page, think it was obsolete, and move on without looking at it. As it turns out, they also have a Facebook page simply titled "Breeders Crown" that they also post updates from.
I just came across it while researching for this article. Confused? Me too. My question: why post from two pages, one of them with an obsolete name? It is confusing and even I, a social media addict, did not know there was a second page.
The average person is not going to search for pages. They want to find what they are looking for immediately, and move on. They cannot do that with the current setup. Besides which, if you make a new page every year, you lose all of your previous followers and have to start from scratch every time.
That is a big reason why the Breeders Crown only has 556 followers on twitter and 821 likes on Facebook, less than the average teenager with a blog.
For those keeping score at home, the Breeders Cup has nearly 24,000 followers on Twitter and over 55,000 likes on Facebook.
A harness racing page will likely never have that many followers, but can't we do better than our current numbers? I think so....
Note to the reader: In the article above, I am not taking a cheap shot at the Little Brown Jug or Breeders Crown. These are just two examples I have chosen. I could have easily chosen any number of similar events in harness racing to write about to which the same concepts would apply.