Marketing Racing - Harder Than it Looks

If you visit a blog, maybe attend a horsemen association meeting, or read the comments on various news stories, an invariable cure for racing ills will be listed as 'marketing'. As Daryl Kaplan has written many times, we market less on a per dollar revenue basis (and it is not even close) when compared to poker, lotteries, or even bingo, so there is some merit in that proclamation. However, when we get down to brass tacks and have to decide what to market, the strategy and road to the promised land becomes as clear as handicapping Mountaineer slop.

Seth Godin broached a marketing subject this week with a solid thesis when looked at in today's landscape. Looking at the massive interest in the apocalypse one would think the world did end. It did not, but with everyone talking about it - in the media, on facebook, twitter etc - it sure had a good marketing plan.

Godin's point in the article is pretty simple: If you have a story that people want to believe, you can market in today's world. If you are selling a story that people do not want to believe in the first place, you are throwing money against a wall, doing traditional marketing that will probably fail.

The story has to be integrated into your product. The iPad, for example, wasn't something that people were clamoring for... but the story of it, the magic tablet, the universal book, the ticket to the fashion-geek tribe--there was a line out the door for that. The same way that every year, we see a new music sensation, a new fashion superstar. That's not an accident. That story is just waiting for someone to wear it.

And the some part is vital. Not everyone wants to believe in the end of the world, but some people (fortunately, just a few) really do. To reach them, you don't need much of a hard sell at all.

This might explain why Kegasus, the Preakness mascot, worked to some extent. Patrons under 30 who have visited the infield the last decade, got drunk, tried the urinal run, bared various body parts, and told their friends about it (or it was picked up by the media, both old and new). Kegasus was selling that demographic something they already believed.

In the context of selling racing (not the get drunk infield part) we can try and construct a marketing plan that has a building block to succeed by using this principle: Let's find something people already, or want to, believe about racing and go to it. We create a Godin tribe, market and we roll.

Have you thought of anything positive that people already believe about racing, we can sell to them?

Maybe we can sell betting. Well since the general public believes "you can beat a race, but you can't beat the races", that's a tough one.

How about selling the fun of the day outside at the races? The general public believes our demo is old, we bet in smoke-filled rooms and it is not a place for families and children.

How about selling the excitement? The public believes our game is slow, they don't know the participants, and waiting 30 minutes between entertainment is tantamount to a root canal.

We can throw millions at marketing, but you have to have something to sell to a tribe that fits their world-view. The next time you see, hear or read someone mention "we should market racing more", ask them what they want to market, because marketing racing is easier said than done.


Tinky said...

The great failing of the marketing of racing, in my view, has been the lack of attention paid to the biggest hook of all: smart people who apply themselves can make money betting on Thoroughbreds.

Take-out rates aside, the house, unlike casinos, does not have an advantage. And while admittedly a small number, there are people who do make money betting on horses. And yet one almost never sees nor hears from such people in marketing campaigns.


Look at how the poker industry has parlayed the well-publicized successes of the top tier players! Millions of people have become poker players because they imagine that someday it might be them sitting at that final table. And guess what? A few of them have made it there, while others refined their skills to such an extent that they have made real money on the circuit.

Racing has studiously (and ignorantly) avoided emphasizing the gambling aspect of the sport. Better to have concerts, and highlight jockeys, etc.

If the industry were smart, it would find a quirky and/or charismatic gambler (or two) who has been successful over the long haul, and develop commercial spots to be used both in-house and on national television.

It's an obvious approach which those in power have – all too predictably – failed to grasp, let alone utilize.

Gambling is huge in the U.S., and yet the racing industry has utterly failed to differentiate itself from its competitors. And this in spite of the fact that betting on Thoroughbreds is arguably the most attractive form of gambling on a variety of levels.

Perry Soderberg said...

I agree with this completely and here is a link to my blog and what I wrote a week ago:

Thanks for posting
Perry Soderberg

Jeremy said...

Where is Tinky's comment?

Pull the Pocket said...

There it is!

The not-very-bright blog owner must have read it and forgot to post it!



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