Hong Kong racing and the importance of nostalgia today.
In the brilliant “Mad Men” television series about the early days of advertising in Madison Avenue, the character known as Don Draper pitches “the Carousel” to his potential clients.
Draper uses nostalgia and visuals of his failed marriage to illustrate the concept behind his presentation.
What’s presented taps into the drawing power of nostalgia and no matter how sad the memories might be, the pitch work because of its honesty.
Somehow- and gawd knows why- the role nostalgia constantly plays in our lives and surfaced on Saturday while watching the simulcast of the very entertaining races at Kranji racecourse in Singapore.
Watching those seven races appealed for what they were- horse races- and also, perhaps subconsciously, unfolded a different time in my life when in the music industry and visiting our office in the city and the people met along the way when there, some of whom are no longer with us.
It also brought to mind those early days when Singapore Airlines’ Kris Flyer sponsored the horse racing at Kranji racecourse.
These were very enjoyable times before the shutters suddenly came down with many becoming Manuel from Fawlty Towers and knowing “nothing” when asked about the pastime in the city today.
There appears to be a veil and vow of silence about horse racing in Singapore that’s hard to understand when the casinos are so loudly marketed.
As for my trip down memory lane, this made me think about a number of things in my own life before bringing me back to horse racing in 2023.
Without sounding like a psych major, it made me question the marketing of the pastime and whether horse racing might have taken the wrong turn in often trying to be all things to everyone.
What had me thinking is that not everyone wants to be everyone else.
They want to be individuals.
So why persist in this futile exercise of trying to sell horse racing to those who don’t want any of it?
What’s there to change their mind?
How and when and why did this thinking start? And why hasn’t this changed to be in sync with the times we’re living in and speak to its primary audience- those who are fifty and above- in a “voice” they understand?
As The Everest pop up race in New South Wales proved all those years ago, drop in some random pop star and their fans will turn up for the performance.
Then, more than likely, they’ll leave without watching any of the races and never return.
It was the opportunity for for the king of spin Peter V’Landys, Chairman of Racing New South Wales, to talk about how the Everest was attracting those “younger people”. And as he knew they would, the subservient racing media bought into everything he said without question.
Whatever...that was then.
Why, during these times of great change, can’t Hong Kong racing be seen as a holistic tribute to this city- this city that is our home- with an emotive video presentation that tugs at the heart strings like Steven Spielberg was able to do in some of his earlier work?
Why can’t there be interactivity, real engagement, new business opportunities and merchandise that are collectibles and not some tacky throwaways?
Why can’t the Hong Kong Jockey Club throw its net wider and bring its Charities Trust into the creative equation along with other relevant products in its portfolio like the heritage and arts compound that is Tai Kwun, the Palace Museum, and if possible, showcase the young talent that’s come from the Club’s funding of the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts?
Personally, I don’t think that horse racing has ever explored this marketing strategy nor has it delved deep enough into the history of Hong Kong and made this part of the present.
This is not to say that one should be living in the past.
Instead, it’s about reminding ourselves of our different life’s journeys in Hong Kong and all the incredible things that have brought us to this point in our lives.
This is something where the time is right to be celebrated and where we applaud our own efforts and accomplishments as a community.
We of the same generation seem to have allowed ourselves to become much too fragmented.
There’s been no real unity. There’s no emotional bond- and no emotional attachment, where we recognise the very real purpose and definite centre that exists- through Hong Kong horse racing.
Have we allowed a division amongst the ranks of our own age group to get in the way of moving forward by creating a “generation gap” where there isn’t one?
What exists is surely only a difference of opinion and which can solved by better communications?
We can at least try to solve this through open dialogue amongst ourselves instead of shutting the door, and by so doing opening new doors of opportunity to give horse racing the facelift it needs and a product personality that’s very much and has always been a Made In Hong Kong product.
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