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WINFRIED ENGELBRECHT-BRESGES AND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND TODAY’S CONSUMER BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS.



After the past few days of drowning in Messiness, a weird kinda “Life Of Brian” vibe, and the entire Inter Miami debacle in Hong Kong ending with singer GEM bringing things to a close with a version of “Amazing Grace” and fingers pointed every which way, including the middle finger being shown to organiser Tatler Asia, who looks like they couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, it was rather refreshing to read “Slamming” Sam Agars, who writes about horse racing for the SCMP, being far more butch with his reportage these days.



This is especially noticeable when The Slammer tackles the shortcomings of the once might and power of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and earlier this week mentioning the lack of a “buzz” during the recent running of the Classic Mile. 


The Slammer was being kind. 


There’s been no buzz at the races in Hong Kong for almost two years with the same old same old taking place almost every week- that is, unless enigmatic jockey Keith Yeung has one of his almost weekly spills and then follows up by winning on something at cricket score odds.



What was even better to read was my old friend and one time confidante and CEO of the HKJC- Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges lament the dwindling attendance figures. Duh.



If it’s any consolation to Winfried, it’s not only horse racing, what certain well placed sources in horse racing are describing as a “sunset industry” that’s affected by consumer apathy. 


Apathy is the new “consumer behavioural pattern”, and finding the way around this is far from being close and nearly fine.


As someone who once enjoyed the company of an international group of interesting friends and acquaintances, they are, for the most part, no longer in Hong Kong. 


They’re like Scarlet O’Hara and gone with the wind.


This means that the reasons for bothering to go out just for the sake of going out and having to struggle to communicate with those simply not on the same wavelength and an appalling decline in the standard of English in Hong Kong is a waste of time, energy and money. 



It’s hardly like going out in London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam or even good old Singapore and being amongst those with something more in common with you than listening to the same old Hong Kong horse racing conspiracy theories and Article 23. 


Winfried mentions something or another about just how much everything has changed since 2018/19- but that was six years ago and six years makes a helluva difference in anyone’s life time plans. 


Many from back in the day are now six years older in “real time” and probably mentally twenty years older during this post pandemic malaise that the world is going through. 


It’s not only horse racing that’s been affected by huge behavioural changes in the wants and needs of today’s consumers. Even the god person has. He’s busier than ever.



Exactly who are the consumers that the HKJC and its fairly new handpicked A Team targeting- and trying to attract?


But with what?


Wednesday nights at Happy Valley look like a bit of a free-for-all for everyone and anyone and which has very little to do with the horse racing taking place. 


It’s more like a cheap night out at Joe Bananas.


Sunday afternoon racing appears to attract a somewhat “mature” and perhaps more “stylish” group of consumers, something seen on television or being streamed from someplace like a restaurant or club or sauna.


Very few newbies we know have experienced being on course, because, well, it’s something they perceive to be quite alien- and boring, especially when on a lovely Sunday afternoon one could be at Spices or a restaurant in Sai Kung or go over to Macau.


As usual, present is that loyal and aging captive audience, which really isn’t moving the chess pieces anywhere new and exciting- except back to the home for the aged.


Though there’s the marquee value of having the usual superstar jockey flying squads coming in to plunder the showpiece racing events for more bounty, as Bob Marley might have said, “mix it up, mon” and keep jammin’ with the Ganga weed and introducing new faces. 


Like bringing jockey Ben Thompson to Hong Kong out of left field and unknown to local racing fans for a short riding stint, consider extremely good female riders like Celine Goudray, Laura Lafferty, Angela Jones, Lucy Fiore from Western Australia and young gunette Jayla Kennedy. 


They’re all pictured below.







With Hong Kong racing desperately needing at ieast a cameo appearance by a female jockey, why not “break with tradition” and bring in a promising young riding talent every couple of months and create new fan engagement on course and on Instagram and maybe even the infamous X?


As for on course entertainment, if this has to do with music, experience has shown that this needs A&R skills as the use of music can be a hit or miss affair. 


Instead of relying on some rather iffy talent heard these days at the Beer Garden at Happy Valley and always taking that cutie Hello Kitty Canto Pop dance route, or wheeling in someone relevant 30-40 years ago, it’s time to mix it up and say hello to 2024 and things far more aspirational.


An example: What’s Hong Kong’s most favourite pastime? Food- eating food and with nearly every other person one meets being a “foodie”.


Why not combine the marriage of food prepared in person by celebrity chefs on course an hour before the races with music? 



With not everyone following Q/QP tipsters a go go, this new entertainment strategy could do very well on a streaming platform and, again, through interactivity using social media meeting places like Instagram. 


If there’s a need for music, consider what was introduced a few years ago when Happy Wednesday really was a happy place- the ABBA tribute band known as BABBA and when there used to be themed nights.


As there’s no such thing as a free lunch, it’s time to stop right here and make like the Invisible Man.



Copyright ©️ Hans Ebert


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