Every racing club in the world realize that they simply cannot continue catering only to its captive market- captive being exactly what it is and with very little upside when it comes to growth potential in the area of- what else?- wagering.
Yes, this captive market is still important, but it’s, usually, also an aging market, set in its ways, and happy to continue the way they have been going for two-three decades.
As with any industry needing to connect with new consumers in this social media and DIY world that has, for example, seen the lunatics take over the asylum, there is much racing clubs can learn from the hard rains of change that have almost drowned the music industry.
Today, for example, one-time hardcore hip hop artists and rappers signed for peanuts by savvy white music execs like Lyor Cohen to a label like Def Jam, have grasped that opportunity, joined forces and taken over the industry almost overnight.
Jay Z, Diddy aka Sean Combes and Dr Dre have cleverly moved from the streets to uptown having traded in their baseball caps and baggies for impeccably cut suits and big business while the rock bands have kept rocking in the free world while being blind-sided by those who were once thought to be content being in their “gangstas paradise.”
Never underestimate anyone as technology and New Thinking has given Gen Y, or the New Millennia, extra clout where the power is in their hands and any attempts to try and win them over in some hokey corporate way will be laughed off the face of the nearest social media platform.
And so it is with horse racing where every racing club has a new customer strategy in place. Or do they?
A strategy to win over any new customer segment cannot be done in boardrooms and second-guessing based on something someone has read.
It has to be done by being PART of this customer segment and understanding what works, what doesn’t- and key- who and what will be accepted and who and what will never be accepted due to their lack of credibility.
Those days when anyone over thirty was not to be trusted and there were George Harrison’s Piggies “with their little piggy wives” still exist today- but in different guises where hippie dippy Flower Power ramblings are with an affluent, well-educated generation who view those trying to sell them anything with the same suspicions of the young generations before them.
For racing clubs, the end game is wagering and winning over new members who have got their feet wet, and novice punters on the periphery wondering whether to participate and engage in the sport or go elsewhere, requires The Patience of Job- no, no, not Steve Jobs, but Job, the dude in the bible- and the The Wisdom Of Solomon.
In Hong Kong, the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday brand offers this customer segment with its sub-divisions Choice- choice of venues and choice of activities that can lead them into another choice; a choice types of bets.
Of course, what’s key is how to ease this market into wagering.
Try to force-feed them and they’ll choke on it, spit it out and never return for a second serving.
They have options, racing clubs don’t.
What the HKJC has cleverly done is opening venues at the Happy Valley and Shatin Racecourses to facilitate these different customer segments from the same Mothership.
It’s a horses for courses strategy: Offer this customer segment a lifestyle experience at the race courses in Happy Valley and Shatin through venues, each one with its own appeal.
As we mentioned here recently, venues are often the initial magnet needed to get newbies to the races- a meeting place and a melting pot of like-minded people who can absorb the sport and understand the ways of winning- in comfort- as part and parcel of their social life.
From what we know, where racing clubs go horribly wrong are in their communication skills and what we call a “cocktail party” mindset where get-togethers with new members etc are arranged, but with everything coming across forced, awkward and with no one quite knowing what is expected of them.
Being great believers in those new to racing meeting the main attractions of the sport- the jockeys- and, through them, understanding what it takes to be a success in this sport, a casual conversation recently with champion Hong Kong jockey Douglas Whyte
Facing a two-day suspension and, for the first time, having seen the spectacular Hay Market venue at Shatin, Whyte, with time on his hands, mentioned being more than happy to have lunch there along with us- ON A RACE DAY- and our friends, who, though are new racing members, are still to understand anything more than a win/place bet.
It made more than a little sense: Friends, at the races together, in a venue of their choice and with Dougie Whyte sitting with them and sharing his knowledge of each race that day and the various betting choices available,
What can be better than this?
Anyone have a better way of racing “edutainment” than in this “chillaxed” atmosphere and minus any hardcore corporate speak?