Parx & California Fight Negative Branding

Yesterday I noticed an interesting "teachable moment" in horse racing. I found it fascinating, and maybe you will too.

Parx (Philly Park) has their big day today - The Cotillion and the Pennsylvania Derby. When Keeneland or NYRA or a dozen or more other tracks have a big day, most of the chatter on chat boards or social media is about, well, the big day. But with Parx it is usually different:

It never seems to fail. Parx's negative branding on some of their egregious takeout rates (it's not only Parx, it's the entire state of Pennsylvania's tracks) usually ends up trumping any good buzz. If a race is Fred Astaire, a horseplayer commenting on their takeout rates, or lack of respect for customers, is Ginger Rogers.

Similarly, yesterday Santa Anita, along with the TOC, were chatting about the upcoming meet. In the (original) press release they noted pick 4 guarantees and that one was starting in race 1. As we all know, the lower rake pick 5, which has been a success, is raced in race one. The pick 5 was a brainchild of the tracks, along with horseplayers. They fought the horsemen group to get it put in, and it's no secret the TOC was not a fan.

The immediate reaction?

The pick 5 (and I still do not have the foggiest why their most popular bet was not mentioned in the release, it's like McDonald's saying "come one come all for our Filet o' Fish), is alive and well, so they tell me.

But branding trumps all.
If Keeneland puts out a press release with a mistake on takeout rates, customers say "that has to be a mistake" because Keeneland has branded itself on being customer friendly. In fact, in the early 2000's they wanted to lower their takeout to 12% in the WPS pools, but partner tracks said it was too low. We rarely if ever, worry about Keeneland not having a customers back.

When California does the same thing? Customers immediately think they're getting screwed.

It's a lesson for racing - or any business really - when you have negative branding, it hurts you and it is something you need to pay attention to. There is a way to fix it, however. If you do customer friendly things, over time your customers will stop thinking you are out to fleece them.


Anonymous said...

With most business your most loyal supporters and better customers "complain" the loudest. 30% is mind bongling. But so is $8.00 beer at a baseball game.

Anonymous said...

The comment above re: zero-gravity room is priceless. In fact it is a perfect description of the former Ontario Slots-at-Racetracks program, with one exception. Horsemen here (in ONT)were not grabbing $100's, it was $millions. Possibly a criminal theft scenario.

Anonymous said...

MLB and its teams can charge $8 for a beer because the product is still dynamic enough to draw fans regularly. Horseracing in general cannot afford to treat its customers in that fashion. As well, PA racing isn't a strong enough nor compelling enough brand to fleece their customers. No one gives two flying you know whats about PARX racing and nor should they. There is too much competition both within racing and outside of it for any justification for a 30% rake.


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