Day At The Track

Swan Hill boosts crowds through new approach

06:56 PM 17 Oct 2016 NZDT
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Swan Hill
Swan Hill

Swan Hill harness racing club manager Marnya Watson was pleased with the attendance and the atmosphere at Saturday night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup meeting.

Ms Watson said the dining room attendance was “up about 300 per cent” on the most recent cup meetings and the crowd overall was larger than last year.

“The atmosphere was great on the lawns trackside and in the dining room. Very relaxed and everyone had a good time.

“We have got quite a vast track, so it’s quite spread out but there were lots of people in the beer garden and the marquees near the front straight. There were also lots of people outside and upstairs was totally booked out.”

Ms Watson said the club had approached local marketing differently this year and it paid dividends.

Rather than focus all of its spend on traditional forms of advertising the Swan Hill club committee offered a $10,000 carrot to key local service groups and charities and encouraged them to engage with their members and networks.

“We had four groups, Riding for the Disabled (RDA), the Swan Hill Hospice, Rotary Swan Hill and the CFA Volunteers, and we colour coded all the tickets so that we could tell which group secured the most patrons on-course,” Ms Watson said.

“The first group got $5000, second $2500, third $1500 and fourth $1000. These clubs are so well connected in the community and the promotional material they were able to distribute to their audiences ensured we got an excellent crowd.”

The CFA secured the most patrons and thus scored a valuable $5000 boost for its coffers.

“It worked very well and the key was to reach new markets,” Ms Watson said.

“We can easily reach harness racing people, but these community groups can reach many other people who previously haven’t been involved in the trots.

“Already we’ve had a lot of community groups keen to do it next year, so that will be great.”

The club’s local media coverage was strong this year with a radio live site set up on the Friday before the cup meeting featuring interviews and the new Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Trots Interactive virtual reality experience.

“The local paper (The Guardian) this morning had a three-quarter page spread on the cup the second page in, plus more in sport. We definitely got more in the paper this year,” Ms Watson said.

“The Guardian is really appreciating it too, because we’re having regular conversations and engaging with them.”

Ms Watson said feedback on the new Trots Interactive experience was “well received”. “Anyone who did it was really happy with it,” she said.

“It was taken upstairs to the dining room, which was a really good move because everyone in there loved it.”

Ms Watson said all who saw star pacer Hectorjayjay mercilessly slay his rivals in the cup would appreciate the memory, but added she received feedback from punters bemoaning “too many short-priced favourites”.

“I definitely received more feedback on that issue on the night, but unfortunately that’s something that’s not within my scope,” she said.

Ambassadors Billy Brownless and Larni Salathiel were also on course at Swan Hill to entertain and mingle with the crowd.

Association of Country Clubs CEO David Brick said he was pleased Swan Hill's crowd was up on last year.

"The crowd was up and the pre-promotion in town the day before really hit the mark," he said.

"While Hectorjayjay was a short-priced favourite, in terms of quality to get the Inter Dominion favourite to the venue was a drawcard.

"It's on to Maryborough now (on Sunday) for the traditional Kilmore Cup timeslot and they're hoping to build on a successful Redwood Day, which saw an increase in patronage and wagering."

Exciting first-starter Phoenix Prince and rising star Hickstead were among favourites to salute at long odds-on, while punters got it wrong with Our Star Dust, sent out $1.10 and finishing second to Johns Grin at $10.

The Swan Hill Cup was the first of 25 Trots Country Cups that form the Trots Country Cups Championship.

This Sunday the action rolls into Maryborough.

Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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