We’re still thinking about the quartet of novice female racegoers we met at Adrenaline at Happy Valley racecourse on Thursday night who successfully picked the Six Up Bonus- the six winners from races 3 to 8- but, alas, ran out of time to get their bets on.
There are many lessons for every racing club to learn from this- namely how too much information can slow down and confuse those new to the sport- not only the small-time punter like these ladies, but the cash-rich new generation of business people who are looking at racing being part of their investment portfolio.
Like too much porn, information overload is clutter and an immediate turn-off.
Speaking to this quartet of ladies after they watched each of their picks win, what we learnt was that they simply didn’t have the time to absorb everything on offer in the way of racing’s information highway- nor wanted to- as it was too much work and, well, unnecessary when all they wanted was a fun night out.
By the time they went with their own choices- and through another learning curve in finding out what a Six Up ticket was, let alone figuring out how to fill it in- and finding a pen- the horses had bolted.
Having scoured the form book given out free, it took them- as a group- well over five minutes to read the comments for each runner in a race- and with almost every one given a “good chance”.
Meanwhile, trying to follow what the racing professionals were saying on television screens was a futile task as their chatter was surrounded by the cackling sound of a murder of crows- emcees screaming, other racegoers thinking they were in a dim sum hall and try to make themselves heard, the sounds of a DJ, and then, when trying to follow the tipsters on twitter, there was more clutter: Four tipsters, each with four choices and which made for sixteen numbers in a race- and, again, too much information and way too many numbers to prioritize any of them.
Should they have done their “homework” before coming to the races?
These four ladies in their mid-Twenties actually have that thing known as jobs and have a social life. Spending their spare time trying to understand “form”, barrier draws, distances etc was and is not for them. Not yet, anyway.
Simply put, they wanted basic information that was, well, simply put and not some academic precise science.
As Jack Webb would have said on Dragnet, “Just the facts, m’am, only the facts.”
In the end- and having started their “process” of picking a Six Up at 7.30pm and with 8.15pm being when the bet closed- they ended up picking the horses they liked- three horses in r3 which included the winner and runner up, three horses in r4 that were given “no chances”, which included the winner, and then, one horse each in the next four races as they liked the names- Majestic Anthem, the grey Charity Joy- they also liked grey horses- Happy Era as a new year was approaching, and Pleasure Gains in the last, below, as this is what they hoped would be the perfect ending to the night.
Made sense to us. Simple, in fact. It made even more sense to these ladies who, we wondered as we left before the last race, ever found out that the Six Up Bonus which would have cost them $90 for a $10 ticket was only won by a $9 ticket- and paid a whopping $2,386,641!
What can be learnt from this is that this new generation of race-goer and important to the future of the horse racing industry, its perception and image, which will lead to new sponsors and with them, bigger prize money plus new ways of enjoying the sport in the online world etc etc still need to understand the very basics of the sport- and how to win from it.
Perhaps one day very soon there will be a consumer-created game like Angry Birds or even Nintendo’s Mario from the computer game days of yore to edutain racing for these newbies.
The hardcore punter is a captive market and too set in their ways to change.
That’s fine ‘cos no one can teach old dogs new tricks. Old dogs just get older.
However, racing clubs have a pretty basic problem to overcome if it is to attract this new and next generation of race-goer: An internal hardcore approach to everything that, no matter how hard it tries, is still finding it tough to “soften the blow” of making the sport entertaining- and consumer-friendly.
In advertising, it’s called Tone Of Voice and in many racing clubs, this is missing in their communications which speaks with one voice to all- a hardcore and dated voice.
When newbies still talk about What Ifs like betting on every horse in every race one knows there’s still a helluva long way to go- or the need to take a few steps back.
The HKJC are way ahead of other racing clubs with its IBU boards, the newly-launched Racing Touch app for iPads, the promotion of The Jockey Challenge and booths around the Beer Garden explaining what simple bets are and how- and where- to place these bets.
Having said this, there still appears that another and even more simple “layer of understanding” is missing in the overall marketing and communications strategies and where social media needs to be used far more effectively- and exclusively- for this consumer group who, for example, don’t give a rat’s arse about some random numbers and what, to them, are tweets in Double Dutch and with no visuals.
You know what they say about one picture: It speaks volumes and cuts through the crap.
If horse racing doesn’t wake up and become part of the larger world of entertainment and find ways of joining the popularity and changing world of other sports, it will remain insular, be living on borrowed time and talking to itself.
And talking to one’s self is one of the first signs of going bonkers.