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ABR Lives In an Industry with No Clue Who It Is

A story on the Paulick Report about "America's Best Racing" popped up yesterday. The article, generally, focused on the ABR insiders and they tooted their horn a little (a couple of times with incredulous numbers). In the comments section (and in some places on the twitter) the project tended to get skewered.

I understand why people get up in arms about the whole ABR project (some are very good friends whom I respect). I get it. Where I diverge from that thought is based more on organizational behavior, not the nuts and bolts (i.e. the criticism of the job they are doing and tactics used).

Racing is odd, fractured, does not really have any idea who the customer is. It taxes based on slices not profits for revenue. Its best friend is a lobby group who wants slots. Racing is a gambling game so it has stalwarts like DRF.com in print and online. No, hold it, it's not a gambling game, so it has breeding heavy industry news at the Bloodhorse. But it is not only a breeding game, and it's much more than that, so it has the Paulick Report and Horse Racing Nation and a half dozen other outlets.

Racing is "The Best is Yet to Come"  sung by a lady most of us don't know.  It has Gene Simmons on a red carpet, while Gene from Brooklyn wonders what all the fuss is about.  It has a faction of people going crazy on social media because a jockey is pregnant, while others are just wondering who is going to replace her tomorrow on the seven in the fourth. It's Kegasus and the Kentucky Derby infield, intertwined with people who would rather eat bees than be anywhere near Kegasus and the Kentucky Derby infield .

Why is racing all those things? Because racing's revenue stream and mandate is so polluted and fractured, there is no way any one website, or organization can do anything in any macro type way. Its an industry that has no clue what it is, so it throws everything against a wall, hoping it sticks. 

One of my favorite organizations is Major League Soccer. They're new and they work very hard in a tough space. They've done some great work on social media and have an excellent flagship website. Through that site you can buy tickets, watch games through their platform, buy gear, play fantasy games and myriad other things. Customer enters funnel, customer can go through many funnels to get what they want. You've seen similar at other industry or sport portals, like MLB.com or NFL.com

For a 'racing.com', such a site cannot exist.

Sell tickets to the Derby? CDI owns that.

Show racing? Stronach says no (you can't even embed their videos on a blog), CDI says no (they won't even let some sites use their live odds feed).

Give free past performances? Ummm, no.

Fantasy games? If they tried to be Derby Wars there would likely be some sort of revolt by every horsemen group known to man.

API's, free stats, database searches? Not on your life.

Bet? Heavens no. There are like 50 ADW's, some don't have all the content, and aren't even available in your state. That's hands off.

So, go build a website about racing that can't do or say much about racing. Oh joy. 

What's left?

Well, pump grade I racing; Pump the experience. Pump the jocks. Pump the Queen's Plate. Pump Wise Dan. Pump hats and food trucks. Pump the on-track, live racing venue. Do so, and hope these people look into racing again, watch it on TV, or maybe make a bet a few times a year.

America's Best Racing is not the problem. Their problem is trying to exist and thrive in a eco-system that is fraught with problems. Looking at the slice they address, in the corner they're put into, they, in my opinion, aren't doing a poor job. They're probably doing about what many of us should expect.

Comments

df said…
If ABR was a private venture no one would give it two thoughts, the fact that it was created/ funded by industry leaders is what is so scary and has people upset.
I posted on Ray's site, but I think you make some good points and I believe this discussion needs to continue for real answers to become obvious (especially to the old guard).

I think the point you made in your title is the strongest- "An industry with no clue who it is". No other sport seems to be so lost as to what people are attracted to.
I know that one of the big things that attracted me as a kid, and that blows away friends when I bring them for the first time- is the athletes, these incredible horses- up close in the paddock and fighting all out down the stretch. There's drama and emotion there- which is what draws us to all sports. I believe that's the first hook- and the betting will follow.
But that hook falls apart when people know and hear about the drugs and mistreatment. Look at the way fans (many new) loved Zenyatta or Chrome- how do they then embrace the drugs and questionable trainers? We're allowing "bad guys" to hurt our stars, our draw. The industry has to deal with it if they want a new audience, and this is just speaking to the personal emotional side- not even broaching the bettors disconnect.

The next incredible hook racing has is the gambling side- but again it's stuck in the dark ages. Vegas makes even Santa Anita look like county fair fare. Do they really need to charge for parking or entry? even on a Thursday when it's empty? Can they really not see the level of entertainment and flash Casinos have brought to the bettor. Is the best we can do hotdogs and beer in paper cups?
And then of course the biggest issue- who wants to play slots, cards, whatever with a 25% takeout? Stupid much?

In the end this product needs to take a long look at itself, make some tough decisions, reinvest, fight off old thinkers and the tiny groups that are gaming/ hurting the system, it needs to gamble and loose some money at first to make a product that is strong and attractive.
It's an incredible sport and would be so easy to market- but it has to take a strong stand or it will continue to shrink, be looked down on and marginalized. It'll go the way of boxing- that's good for one or two fights a year...