So, first of all, is there enough awareness of horse racing to attract sponsors, advertisers and new business partners? And when the sport does manage to bring them in, do both sides really know how to get the most bangs for the buck other than trotting out that old warhorse called Naming Rights which doesn’t even cause a ripple in the psyche of the consumer?
If going back to the egg for a second, and looking at horse racing as a sport and not from some hardcore internal one-dimensional point of view, how attractive is it to a business partner- a new business partner?
If presenting the sport to a client and its advertising agency for the first time, what would be presented and would convincing these people to part with their marketing dollars be as difficult as attracting the next generation of race-goers to a racecourse- and if this is succeeding, how can a brand connect with this group and how can it be a win-win situation for all sides?
What other carrots are there to dangle other than the usual Naming Rights for a Cup race?
Okay, and then what?
Where are the pre, post and sustaining campaigns and how is the product integrated into the actual experience of going horse racing and not another round of Breakfast With The Stars and Fashions On The Field?
From what we’ve seen, there is precious little integration other than sticking in some random logo which means tickyboo to a race-goer.
It only adds to the clutter of what is truly “mass communications” which is often “messy communications” with everything thrown in plus the kitchen sink hoping to hell something sticks and which ends up looking like the dog’s breakfast.
It’s madness without any method as there is no strategy in place. Only guess work with fingers firmly crossed that something/anything works.
In Hong Kong, telecommunications brand 1010 sponsors the 1010 Million Challenge.
Sounds good, but ask most local race-goers what it means and after something like five years of it limping around, the 1010 Million Challenge still means nothing to them as, apart from ringing a bell to launch what is, in a nutshell, a series of races to find the King Of The Turf at Happy Valley, it only caters to a few owners and with zero to do with the consumer.
But, it’s their party and 1010 will cry if it wants to like an old Lesley Gore song and spend their marketing dollars as they want to just because they can and because this is how it’s always been.
Meanwhile, there is the far more interesting and consumer-friendly Jockey Challenge which has become an effective magnet to attract the new race-goer. And now, in Hong Kong, with the arrival of Magic Man Joao Moreira, it’s a racing product enjoyed and followed by all, and where its benefits to a brand are simply going to waste.
Why? Well, it goes back to how the sport is presented to sponsors and their ad agencies in 2014 and promoting something like this Jockey Challenge can work for a brand beyond, yes, Naming Rights.
What it does is bring the race-goer closer to the main attractions of any race meeting- the jockeys and their rides plus the races in which they compete.
How a sponsor wishes to get more involved in taking this attraction further depends on their business objectives and marketing strategy, plus, at least, a three year program very clearly mapped out so it evolves and not something lazily put on Repeat.
One can only lead a horse to water…
This is also where ad agencies- for all their buzz words and dog and pony shows- go very limp and hopelessly wrong: Seldom do they add new building blocks to the ground floor that’s been built and only jump to action when the client dresses up like Peggy Lee, yawns, and warbles, Is This All There Is?
Longines is a brand that has bought itself prime real estate in the marketing of horse racing throughout the world- a smart move, especially with the China market in mind.
Having said this, perhaps apart from awareness within the sport’s captive market- and this market shrinks as it ages every day- how effective is its communications to, not only consumers, but the non-racing media apart from some possible photo opps?
From the traditional black and white junior page traditional advertising we have seen, not very, whereas on-course advertising might be all over the place, but it’s hardly going to make someone change loyalty from a Rolex or a Cartier to a Longines.
Someone recently asked us what’s the difference between racing’s old boys club and those, supposedly, part of the new school of thinking.
Well, nothing really. It’s simply passing a well worn-out baton to a team coached by the ghost of racing past and where new dogs are doing old tricks with the term “social media” thrown into the melting pot to try and up the ante on The Cool Factor.
What it’s all about, Alfie?
Some “stuff” on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and an agency’s “social media” gurus- glorified PR people- giving clients a false sense of reality by paying for “likes”, “views” and “followers”?
Racing’s real game changers who will take the sport into a bigger playing field with new business partners are those not brainwashed by the past and the present and with the chutzpah to question, probe and move the goalposts as shooting from that one penalty spot with its clutter of tipsters, racing radio stations, racing pundits, the dated ways of showcasing races and racing shows have not only become far too predictable, they’ve become incredibly boring in a shrinking marketplace.
Boring means a lack of progress and a sport being allowed to carry on regardless with bibs and bobs of token “corporate creativity” when even the once-boring game of cricket continues to continually reinvent itself and bring in new excitement, new crowds, plus new ways of wagering on a sport which has attracted new advertisers, sponsors and business partners.
We were watching The Oscar presentations earlier today and couldn’t help but think of a What If question: What if a creative film and music video director like Spike Jonesz, below, or any new short-film maker was given a free hand to create something for a racing club and run with it using whatever media and business partners worked for them?
What might they create?
In what new ways might they look at the sport- and present it to audiences?
Often, it’s those closest to any industry who really can’t see the forest for the trees and are happy to live in blissful ignorance while order-takers simply adopt a Don’t Ask, Don’t Say way of working- and then wonder why it’s Summertime and the fish aren’t biting, Porgy.