Monday, August 24, 2009

Promoting to the Masses

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dean,

How come we don't have free rolls? Like Full Tilt poker? I think you brought it up one time (about the guy that started with noting and got up to $10,000). With all our slot money, surely we can come up with $50 a day to sponsor a free entry handicapping tournament, where a person could win real money. Full Tilt bring in thousands of people every day trying to win a buck. That's marketing. Why not do the same with racing? It would allow a possible fan to learn handicapping with no risk and a small possible reward. Anyway, just a thought.

Pull the Pocket said...

Anon,

Good thought.

I think we are about five or seven years behind in racing, so it might take a few more years for some free rolls. I remember in about 2001, everyone and their brother were offering free signup bonuses, bet $100 get $100 and so on. It took us til about last year to finally do that for racing. Something as simple as "bet $500 and get $100 free" is rarely even thought about in racing. Hell, bet $500 at 22% rakes and give a guy $100 to rebet, you end up making money, have a good promotion, and possibly a long term customer.

PTP

Pacingguy said...

We should not belittle SC's efforts with Adreneline Fest. The fact is it got people out to the track who probably never would have. While these people did not flood the betting pools, I dare say some people probably dipped their toes into wagering for the first time. In the case of these newbies, I tend to doubt many of them know about takeout so I don't think that was a turn off for them (granted if they stick around long enough they will learn about it).

One thing they should have done (if not) was allow these people to make $1 wagers on straight wagers. If you have people there for the first time and you want them to try betting, making the bets as affordable as possible probably would have helped. If your goal was to attract new people to racing, a dollar wager may have had a few more people trying to wager instead of just watching; or at least kept them wagering if they lost a couple of bets.

Certainly not fixing harness racing's problems with takeout and image would help even more, but let's give credit to Standardbred Canada and Hiawatha Horse Park. You don't see the anyone in the states trying anything like Adreneline or Extreme Horsepower. Doing something, even if it doesn't work out is preferable to doing nothing.

Pull the Pocket said...

I did not berate them at all Pacingguy. I supported the concept and thought they did well, and worked hard at it. My point was all about the folks who think promotion is something that is easy, or if we just throw money at it, handles will rise. If we want handles to rise, there is an easy solution - lower takeout.

Pacingguy said...

Oops, I misread your post. I stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

Just to add another point about Adrenaline Fest, they did offer a very unique betting chance. They had prepackaged betting packs that could be purchased for 10, 20 or more. According to the talk after the event the pari-mutuals could not keep up with making the packs. So cost is not the whole problem for new folks it is understanding the idea behind the wagering, which brings us back to the debate about changing the pari-mutual system. Bet-Fair?!?!
Regards, Rebecca

P.S. Over the winter I had mentioned having a couple of youngsters for the OSS program, and Dean had mentioned giving an update sometime. So here it is; the filly, a 2 year old trotter, finished 2nd in her Grassroots debut at Hiawatha. The other is a 2 year old pacing colt racing in overnights.

Pull the Pocket said...

Good for you with the Striking Sahbra filly!!! I saw her last night and I thought she trotted nice.

Best luck!