If you go on chat boards, or go to a horseman meeting, you will often hear "let's promote", "we do not spend enough money on promotion", "we should be on TV", or "where are the billboards promoting racing". Oh if it were only that easy.
The nebulous concept of promotion to the masses might sound great, but it does not work overly well. Selling horse racing to the non-gambler might be the most difficult marketing there is.
This weekend the Adrenaline Festival in Sarnia, Ontario tried to achieve this unenviable task - offer several promotions to get the masses, or the non-fan out to discover racing. This event took months and months to pull off, and some serious money was spent. By all accounts they did quite well. They had a decent crowd, they had some bands, some dogs doing tricks, some neat racing. I was very impressed with the effort; how could you not be.
However, we must look at the effort for what it is: Trying to brand a day, or an event, where little will be achieved in year one, and little will be achieved in handle gains. For example, Friday's handle (day two of Adrenaline) was less than $10,000. On Saturday this was boosted up to around $30,000. Getting the masses to come out for some affordable food, a couple Kokanee's, and a night out is one thing. Getting them to bet is entirely another.
The next time we go to a meeting, or read on a blog that says "we have to promote, promote, promote" like it is some sort of panacea, please point them to the above data. The promotion of the sport of racing is one small part of things, and in no way will it ever work on a stand-alone basis.
How do we get people to bet, instead of just brand racing? Well that is what this blog, and other blogs around the web are hopefully about. We hope to get our industry to realize that fixing it can not be done with a TV commercial, a beer giveway, dancing girls, or putting nine brown horses behind a gate in a nice setting and expecting people to run to the windows, or cheer for them like they are human athletes. It takes real change. Change that will hopefully make harness racing (and racing in general) a far better gambling proposition than it is. One thing I hope has sunk in by now is that 25% takeouts make racing a poisonous bet, and it will take far more than a few beer and a good band to change that reality.