Much has been said and talked about “social media” in relation to the future of horse racing and “engaging the next generation of racing fans”- all nice, pat sound bites, but far removed from reality. Apart from Twitter, the horse racing industry is clueless how and when and with what to use social media to market the sport- to “engage the next generation of racing fans”.
Why? Social media is created, owned and “curated” by consumers. But where it’s going down the old plug hole is when the hardcore racing world takes over and steers it into that old, often angry, one dimensional punt-driven world which only attracts like-minded rabble rousers.
Of course, this is social media and, like assholes, everyone has an opinion about anything and everything and the freedom of speech to express their views by rocking in the free world with Neil Young. But those in an industry who are meant to market and promote the sport beyond its captive market- the racing clubs and the racing media- adopting a Silence Of The Lambs approach and doing nothing to further its cause on all the various delivery platforms available, allows the tail to wag the dog and often paint horse racing to be an also-ran with trite corporate press releases for company.
Sorry, but lock, stock, and non-smoking barrels of flaccid corporate communications on Twitter is not exactly “engaging” anyone. They’re just fluffy press releases.
Wherefore art thou, Romeo, and wherefore are there these trailblazers to- you know the drill- “engage the next generation of racing fans” who wouldn’t know or care about the ins, outs and, too often, dysfunctional traits of a sport still very much in its own box earmarked for racing tragics and purists hell-bent on keeping out those not cut from the same cloth?
On Twitter, this delivery platform has zero, nada, zilch appeal to anyone except for the usual suspects who have migrated from the navigationally-challenged racing club websites that are an unappetising dog’s breakfast to where they can now rant and rave about the plat de jour in 140 words or less.
As Andy Warhol predicted, “In the future everybody will have their fifteen minutes of fame”. Time’s up, but let’s not kid ourselves that this is utilising “social media” to maximum effectively as a marketing tool and a quicker, more impactful- and creative- way of generating awareness and reaching different customer segments with pinpoint accuracy, and in an entertaining manner about an often very misunderstood sport.
As we used to say in the music industry- only say, but never did- give customers what they want, when they want it and how they want it. When it comes to horse racing, how many racing clubs even know what “it” is when few know who their customers are?
More to the point, when looking at the focus on turnover, and, these days, in the Australian racing industry, all the space devoted to #sandwichgate, cheating trainers working with hypocritical vets, the marketing of the sport as entertainment becomes a PS in a very long litany of dirty laundry being aired in a public forum. And when this Pandora’s box is opened and dear Pandy opens her legs wide and invites everyone in, Klout moments are reached on Twitter through tweets and retweets that create a murder of crows flapping its wings about subjects where the twitterers hold little no power to change. It’s just more pissing in the wind. And a huge turn-off to those looking at entering the world of racing.
Away from the now well-worn out mantra about “engaging the next generation of racing fans”, social media, as proven by the likes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and, recently, Taylor Swift taking on the might of Apple Music, can bring about change by toppling the power brokers. But not when everyone is chanting the same lines like some blissed out members of the Rhada Krishna Temple blinkered to sing from the same hymn book with the addition of hoods, winkers and cheek pieces added to ensure that “lemminging” takes place.
Who’s there without self-serving agendas and that indie spirit to deliver us from Dr Evil and Mini Me by leading the racing industry to a rousing version of “We Shall Overcome”, “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “If I Only Had A Brain”?
Who’s there to “engage the new generation of racing fans” through social media- and how? It’s fine to say that Aussie jockeys like Blake Shinn, Tommy Berry and Chris Symonds are “active on social media”- but “active” doing what? Tweeting updates is fine for their followers, but it’s basically re-hashing the same information as the racing media. It’s only coming from some high profile young jockeys in an old-school way. It’s not their fault. They’re not paid to be social media directors. And this is where racing clubs fail miserably to see who and what’s under their very noses and can be utilised and “mobilised” to be part of their online marketing teams.
Like the way indie music companies used street marketing teams, racing clubs have many jockeys with large followings- Neil Callan in Hong Kong has over 12,000 followers- as does a trainer like Gai Waterhouse and global racing personalities like Francesca Cumani along with business partners like Longines and BMW to help generate awareness about the sport to those racing fans on the periphery who wouldn’t know winkers from wankers, the tote to a tote bag and cobalt from Cobain.
Gai Waterhouse, for example, is a savvy marketer of her brand- on Twitter and via her short-form videos known as GaiTV.
Jockey Victor Espinoza with his great partnership with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah- also on Twitter- is another in racing whose tweets shine a powerful light on the positive aspects of the sport, both on and off the track. And with close to 19,000 followers, this positivity spreads far and wide. It’s great for the future and present of the sport.
Social media is marketing- a valuable marketing vehicle for the racing industry to make itself known through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and, with some thought, even enter a hugely popular gaming- and now music- channel like Twitch through the ‘live’ streaming of inter-active content.
Of course, this again leads to the subject of content- original, relevant content to, yes, TRULY engage this and the next generation of racing fans.
And here, it might help if horse racing finds itself a sense of humour. The sport and many who sail in her- those empty vessels making the most noise while working for The Ministry Of Silly Walks in search of Monty Python’s Spamalot, need to get off their high horses and practice what they preach about “engagement” and their idea of “social media”.
Do these wannabe visionaries really know what they’re on about, or is it just using some buzz phrases to an audience who are actually computer illiterate with even no idea of Skype or WhatsApp?
This can’t be achieved through inane sermons from the mountain tops that are nothing more- or less- than vapid chatter along with vain- very vain- and calculated attempts at showing the importance of being earnest. This type of showboating is ringing more and more hollow every day. It has its place- but this place isn’t going anywhere.
The stars of horse racing is the team work between man and horse. If one could bottle and share jockey Joao Moreira talk about this, it will do more for the sport than any corporate marketing campaign. It’s ready made for prime time, as is The Magic Man, and a new way of appreciating horse racing through social media.
We come back to social media with its various delivery platforms as a public forum to rant, rave, interact and how, in this instance, those in the horse racing industry- racing clubs, the racing media etc- can best showcase the sport and its main attractions.
Is it by taking viewers on those wild rides through Jockeycam or Helmetcam or GoPro, or whatever it’s called, on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and links on Twitter, or an app that turns this experience into a game?
Is it constantly underlining that special bond between horse and man- and woman and child and all the proven attributes of horse therapy? It can’t always be about everything that ends with wagering, or commonly known as “the punt”. That’s an immediate turn off like Tipsters Overkill.
Is this engagement to do with the immediacy and creativity of Instagram at the races, or the entertainment value of an app that doesn’t go down that well-trodden hardcore route that’s alien to 99.9 percent of customers? If there are Angry Birds, why can’t there be Happy Horses?
Is it a sharing of anything and everything about the sport that makes one say, “I never knew that and must share this with others”?
It’s all of the above and more in this social media driven world where everything changes in a nanu second, and where “going viral” with something from the world of horse racing that resonates with people- and for all the right reasons- attracts and engages the current, new and potential racing fans.
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc, Fast Track Global Ltd
THE INSIDE TRACK
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST (UGH!)
As the search to find a replacement for Darren Flindell plods along, the plodding has surely reached a point of no return? The very experienced Mark Shean was coming out to Hong Kong, but then made an abrupt U-turn when shown the accommodations the HKJC had in mind for him and the family.
Then, rookie caller and fledgling form analyst and tipster Anthony Manton, surprisingly, the first name mentioned to replace the experienced Flindell, and was set to be here next month. We now hear that he’s dropped off.
Why? Who knows? An unclear brief about his job responsibilities? The fact that Oz is also on the lookout for new race callers at a time when there is hardly a huge pool of talent for what must be a “niche career”?Seriously now, how many out there wake up and say, “Mama, I want to be a race caller”? Not many. It’s an endangered species.
So, where is Hong Kong at the moment when it comes to filling the potholes in this gig? Amigo Brett Davis has done a sterling job holding down the fort, but is he strong enough to keep the fort from toppling over?
Well, forget any experienced race callers- anywhere- giving it all up to move to Hongkers and stick it out in one of the shoeboxes in the city. One name out there, however, we’d snap up toute de suite would be WA’s Ritchie Bell, below.
Right now, co-host of “The Big Breakfast”, to us, the best edutainment packed racing radio programme, and a caller of the hot trots and some of the state’s country races, we’re tipping “Ding Dong” Bell would love the experience and challenge to work in Hongkers and go on to be a top world class race caller- fast.
If still pondering why a certain jockey with strong winning chances at Shatin on Sunday saw them all crash and burn, it might have had just something to do with a long boat trip on Friday followed by a very long night out in LKF the same day. It’s a minor miracle he managed to stay on his mounts and didn’t “do a Walter Swinburn Jr”, an incident at Shatin at the start of a 1000 meters race many years ago that some might remember- with horror…
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST (PARTS DEUX)
We’re tipping that whatever partnership they might have had, the Fat Lady has sung for the “marriage” of trainer Richard Gibson and former champion jockey Douglas Whyte.
It’s no secret that Gibson has been openly critical of Whyte’s recent rides with the top jock not being on any of the trainer’s runners in recent months. We understand one overture for a jockey to be retained by him was quickly knocked back while what will be interesting is to see who wins the tug of war to win over big spending owner Pan Sutong. Will he stay with Gibson or follow Whyte? But where to?
LETS HEAR IT FOR THE GIRL(S)
With the announcement that female apprentice Kei Chiong Kai-fei will join the Hong Kong riding ranks next season- the first female to be granted a riding license since Carol Yu retired as a jockey and is now assistant trainer to the Tony Millard stable- might we be seeing visiting female riders in action? We hope so as we know of at least one trainer who’s been on a mission to have the very good young New Zealander Danielle Johnson ride in Hong Kong on a full-time basis.
That won’t happen, but a series of invitational races at Happy Valley for female riders the calibre of Melbourne’s Katelyn Mallyon, Sydney-based Winona Costin and WA’s excellent Lucy Warwick might not be that daft an idea.
OH WHAT A NIGHT
Though disappointing not to see even one expat trainer attend the party, the Big Bang end of season Happy Wednesday party at Adrenaline this week was a fun mixture of some great music mixed with a chilled atmosphere and a few bouts of surrealism. A good time was had by those who bothered to attend.
JENNY CHAPMAN: THEN AND NOW
WHEN THE HKJC WAS THE ROYAL HONG KONG JOCKEY CLUB
FROM THE FAULT: DARREN BEADMAN IN HONG KONG
MONTY PYTHON TAKES OVER OZ RACING
There’s a fine line between satire, humour and ridiculousness. And the so-called “trending tweet” with the hashtag #sandwichgate managed to cross it in Oz this week with this silliness built around a battling trainer named Bryce Stanaway and his decision to take his horses and go home after, apparently, being sold short when it came to sandwiches.
That’s right, sandwiches which brought to mind Spamalot, Mr Creosote and the Best Of Monty Python.
How on earth this silliness became bigger than far greater priorities affecting a racing jurisdiction riddled by one controversy after the other does nothing for the image of racing in Australia- and its brand value to sponsors and international racing partners.
At a time when many owners overseas have crossed racing their horses in the land going down under off their bucket list, comes this episode of “sandwichgate”. It opens up a can of worms and a can of Spamalot about the racing media, management of the Pakenham racing club, trainers versus jockeys- and beyond. And when social media comes into play, the silliness of it all is compounded with everyone wanting their fifteen minutes of fame and with everyone given their own stage.
The entire Sandwichgate Saga was another exclusive for that dear boy Shane-O Anderson, the champion of the oppressed and the Woodward and Bernstein, Joan Of Arc, Mother Teresa and Norman Bates of the Oz racing media.
With that gently probing and lurching journalistic style- “Motherrrrrr!”- we have come to know, and which can have a numbing affect between one’s ears and legs, Shane-O went for the jugular- and the Subway- by giving trainer “Sandwichgate” Stanaway the time to air his grievances- and, no, no, they weren’t only about the lack of sandwiches.
This riveting reportage was, of course, on RSN, the dead people walking channel of Oz racing radio where dear departed “Liz” makes regular visits dressed in her favourite kaftan to relive her youth and dance amongst the living dead to, one guesses, the Grateful Dead and the Doors’ “People Are Strange”.
Mr Stanaway, enjoying his moment in the sun, waffled on about jockeys having access to “Cordon Bleu” sandwiches when they should be watching their weight, “cobalt trainers” and spoke sagely about which racing clubs serve the best, well, sandwiches. We’re unsure how good a horse trainer he is, but Bryce Stanaway knows his sandwiches.
Always on his lurching tippy toes for exclusives, one could hear the opportunist that is Shane-O start to breathe rather heavily when thinking he just might be able to latch onto the skirt of a new controversy, that of oppressed trainers versus high flying jockeys. Motherrrrrr!!! But, like shrinkage, this petered out. Once a sandwich man, always a sandwich man, and Bryce Stanaway was not going to remove that sandwich board.
Meanwhile, does RSN have its own dysfunctional problems to do with hires, fires and lopsided contracts signed and made binding before the exiting of one of its chiefs? More on this stink that some say is worse than cheese cutting through fermented herring later and the gamesmanship involved.
As for the interview with Mr Sandwichgate, what was the point of it, and what did it prove other than creating a twitterverse of puns, buns and make Oz racing part of the silly season? Guess it was a break from the non-stop pounding of negativity.
If the genius and legend in his own sandwich that is Shane-O really wants to be seen as a serious journalist with massive cajones, he should interview his boss- Birdie Num Num Bernard Saundry- and not lob him “corporate approved” soft-cock questions.
That Man Called Horse- Shane-O- should also, in the light of everything that has happened since, repeat his early interviews with Kav The Younger and that real tearjerker the day after the Melbourne Cup when Vet Of The Hour- Tom Brennan- broke down and wept talking about the death of Admire Rakti. Motherrrrr!!!
FROM THE RACING TWITTERVERSE
THE FAST TRACKER PLANS FOR A HAPPY MAGICAL ENDING
Wednesday night’s racing was a strange meeting, one that happened, but, perhaps because of it was almost like the last day of school, some played hookey and some didn’t even seem to give a toss. Almost everyone was singing, “School’s Out” and that Happy Wednesday party atmosphere was in the air along with a cavalier attitude towards the wagering side of things.
Apart from Happy Meteor who won? No idea. Who won the Jockey Challenge? No idea. Who is our Champion trainer? John Moore. Which trainer and jockey to follow today? The John Size and Joao Moreira McHappy Meal Combo which look like taking out races 4,10 and 11, and being in the placings in races six and nine.
With another Triple Trio jackpot on offer, take Monsieur Mosse as your banker in races five and six. With the great French swordsman being retained as stable jockey for trainer Manfred Man- a last minute lifeline to continue riding here- the classy Group 1 winning jockey who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, has been turning over those sands of time in that hour glass and riding with renewed passion.
If this makes any sense at all, it’s as if Gerald Mosse has, gawd forbid, grown another leg. Take his ride Thors Bolt as a banker in race 5, the first leg of the Triple Trio as a banker whereas in the next leg, he has a rare ride for John Size- High Warrior- which is strong banker material with that “slow maturing type” in the Zac Purton-ridden Unicorn.
The last leg is the toughest where it will be foolish to ignore another Mosse ride- Newswire Free- as a leg in a trappy affair where Beauty Journey, All My Gain, Secret Code and Double Dragon all have winning chances.
BEST BET MOREIRA 4×1 ALL UP WIN (R1,4, R4,12, R9,8, R11,4)
NEXT BEST R5-7 (THORS BOLT)
OUTSIDER R2-8 (JOYFUL LUCK)