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Big Event Promotion

This years Preakness was a solid event; the 5th highest handle ever, in a business that has seen handle losses the last twenty four months. Big events still work in racing, and I think more has to be done to coordinate them as a seminal marketing strategy.

Often times we read (in my view a specious) opinion that every day racing can somehow market to the masses. This has proven time and time again to be a failed policy. Why? Because primarily you can not promote some of the racing that we see on a daily basis to sports fans. I do not want to be mean here, and I am certainly not trying to be, but about 8 out of ten horse races have completely sub par stock. Who can get interested in them, unless we sell the gambling game, and not racing? From a poster at

As a sporting event, the average day of racing stacks up very, very, very poorly against an average professional sporting event. Let's take baseball.

I can get tickets to a baseball game for just about the same cost as a going to the track. Not good seats, but I can go to the ballpark for the same price. I can buy those tickets, and plan my trip, months in advance, to see whatever team I want to see. I know what I'm going to get. I can invite friends, plan a day around it. While I'm there, I know I am going to watch several hours of professional level competition.

If the average day of baseball operated as the average day of horseracing does, here is what I would get instead:

I would have no idea who was playing until a day or two ahead of time. It wouldn't really matter, as I'd have no idea who most of the players were anyway. If I wanted to find out anything about them, I'd have to pay extra.

I decide to go anyway.

I sit down, and they bring a bunch of toddlers out to play tee ball. Most of these toddlers have never played tee ball before, and the ones that have, have absolutely no skill at it. They appear to be the worst group of tee ballers they could find.

They play for around 2 minutes, and then they go back into the dugout.

The field is empty for 30 minutes. We sit there.

Then, they bring out another group of tee ballers, these ones are little girls. They play tee ball for 2 minutes. They are worse than the previous group. Then they go back into the dugout.

The field is empty for 30 minutes. We sit there.

A bunch of old men come onto the field, and play slow pitch softball for 2 minutes. One of them falls and breaks his hip -- he rolls around near home plate in pain, and then they cart him off in an ambulance.

The field is empty for 30 minutes. We sit there.

The "Feature" finally comes around, after several hours of this. It seems like it took an agonizingly long time to get here.

A bunch of Babe Ruth league teenager boys come onto the field. They are ok, but not great. They play for 2 minutes, then they go back into the dugout.

Then we all go home. The End

Maybe we do not want to read that, but for people who say we should be a 'sport', that is what we are selling.

We are sport on big days, with Somebeachsomewhere, Rachel Alexandra, Cam Fella and Seattle Slew. Selling those big days, by coordinating post times, coordinating marketing and bringing us together with a common goal, should be a vital first salvo into marketing this game to fans. We do not have unlimited marketing money. Spending it wisely is key.

And some things that we can achieve, do not even cost anything. For this years Breeders Crown races, for example, every track who is running against the Crown races should be yelling into the PA system at the track that the BC for 3YO colts is going off in five minutes, discussing the race on in-house TV, and NOT running a race against it. I would even take it a step further and make sure virtually all televisions are turned on the event, with full sound. The horses they will be highlighting are the best of the best, and it is we want fans to see. Clearly this is common sense, but all too often in racing, common sense is not considered common-place. At this years Breeders Cup, I counted two racetracks that ran a race at an off-time that overlapped the first Breeders Cup of the day. What were they thinking? For the Breeders Crown it is even worse. I swear 90% of fans would not even know the Crown is running if they are at a track on Saturday night. No one even tells them. Simo-centres and off-site tracks run their races like it is an everyday Saturday night.

Ditch the marketing dollars from selling Tballers - sell those races to the gamblers instead with lower takes and better data and deeper fields - and transfer everything into making big events work. We will be better off.


Pacingguy said…
The reason why marketing it as a sport fails is race meets are too long. There should be no racetrack running from January 1 through December 31st; in fact, no track should run live racing more than three months a year. Look at Saratoga, DelMar, Keenland, Monmouth and all the other tracks that run short meets. They do relatively well. Why? Because the fans are not fatiqued. All the stake races are squeezed into the small time frame and they still run their cheap claiming races.

The hardcore players can still play the rest of the year via ADW or simulcasting at their local track but then they will be seeing quality meets at the other tracks. tracks.
Anonymous said…
whoever wrote that comment on PA is very intelligent and funny. Probably handsome and good at sports, too.


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