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CAN HORSE RACING BE SAVED FROM ITSELF?

Maybe they’re now known as something else, but when in advertising, us in the creative department looked forward to working on PSAs- Public Service Announcements.

This was because there was no client involved, which meant complete freedom to create something meaningful, relevant, that belonged to us and could be entered in any international advertising awards show where there was always the chance of winning.

For any creative team behind the work, winning a Clio in New York, or a Gold Lion in Cannes etc was not only great for the ego, it was even better for the portfolio.

These wins also helped opened up new doors to career opportunities in different creative driven businesses.


These days, especially when the world seems to need some type of motivation and inspiration, words of encouragement, and addressing matters to create a better world, it’s rare to see any of these PSAs.

Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. Perhaps after over ten years of being caught up in the rather restrictive and one dimensional world of horse racing, where everyone seemed to be in “marketing”, this has dulled the senses. Duh.

Maybe inspiration has dried up?


Maybe leaders don’t know how to inspire and mentor their hires?


Maybe the hiring process and the Human Resources people are only order takers?


This lack of motivation is probably why no one’s writing songs today that have the depth and meaningfulness of “Let It Be”, “Imagine”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Blowing In The Wind” etc.


Getting back to horse racing, though now divorced from the industry, it’s still an interesting and quaint curiosity piece for those in the creative business looking for a challenge.


For myself, apart from learning about its inner workings and strengths and weaknesses, horse racing has given me the Happy Wednesday multi media brand for my portfolio, and, to a lesser extent, the Popbitch influenced Racingbitch online column.


What racing clubs surely must realise is that (A) its captive audience isn’t getting any younger, and (B) there doesn’t appear to be much of anything to attract the new risk averse generation to be regular race goers- or horse owners.


They simply don’t see a return on their investment and have trust issues in how the game is played and managed.


Especially in this day and age of ‘live’ streaming, for instance, what this customer demographic is asking is why they should even bother going to the races?


What’s there for them?


Like minded people? Music by some third rate covers band? Canapés? A free keychain? Handshakes?

Horse racing, and those who lead it today need to face a few home truths that aren’t going to just go away.


Understanding that the core business proposition and business model of racing clubs is to get as many people as possible to bet on horse races, it’s really about finding something totally new and relevant as to why anyone who hasn’t grown up with it would wish to even consider being in the game.

If this “new stuff” is still going to be about “battlers”, old millionaires, slots, prize money and turnover with some new name for yet another “pop up race”, one doubts there are going to be many under the age of forty interested in coming along for the ride.

Like the major music companies discovered when illegal online file sharing site Napster came along, and despite suing them and winning the case, it forced the one-time untouchables to change their tune, change their dated business model and let the indie spirited lunatics take over the asylum, horse racing, with its detractors, must change in order to, well, survive.


These detractors is why sponsors and potential global business partners don’t wish to be associated with the often very parochial world of horse racing.


Simply put, any association is bad for their business, because one is judged by the company they keep.


When with advertising agency DDB and then leading music companies Universal Music and EMI Music, except perhaps charging an exorbitant amount of money for a sync deal, there was no interest in working with a racing club.


Why? No Return On Investment, too many with zero experience in marketing, and no opportunities to do award winning work.


Something like the Quokka might have been a great winner for racing in Perth and Western Australia, but with more stories about more “battlers” and slots and slot owners, it’s hardly caused a ripple in other racing jurisdictions.


Should racing clubs re-look at possible new business streams while still continuing with its core turnover driven business model?


Of course they should.


What’s there to lose?


This is, after all, 2023 and those halcyon days of the Eighties and Nineties are gone forever much like those girls who worked at Gotham City and Club BBoss.


After surviving those lockdown years, today’s “younger people” aren’t looking to be labelled “battlers”.


They wish to be and be seen as winners in their own right.


Questions that those highly paid executives leading horse racing today should be asking themselves before singing “Happy Trails”, are questions like these:


*How can horse racing appear to be seen as being more likeable and contributing to the community?


*Are the current mediums used for the messages by horse racing clubs effective enough to broaden their customer base?


*Is the money coming in and money going out enough to sustain horse racing in today’s current economic climate and in a world with far greater priorities?


Guess these are the main questions needed to be asked as horse racing, rightly or wrongly, continues to have an image problem and a product personality that for many is a cross between a gangster movie starring Edward G Robinson and James Cagney and “Rosemary’s Baby”.


It doesn’t have the stylish, yet dangerous charm of “Godfather”.


Bottom line: Horse racing needs a mighty big booming home run.


The big question is from where this is going to come- and whether racing clubs have those who can deliver what’s needed to enhance its brand personality- deliverables like PSAs, just to get things moving along in a new direction and with no “battlers” in tow.



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