Monday, December 21, 2015

#ABRLive vs #ABWLive

I wonder if he turned into an every day bettor
Our pal @sidfernando was speaking a little social media today on the social media box. He was even throwing in some posts and thoughts from what feels like a lifetime ago.

Sid was generally focused on the tweet storm from Hong Kong recently, where local social media types were promoting Sha Tin's (maybe Happy Valley's, I get them mixed up) big day two Sunday's ago. "America's Best Racing" is never not a hot topic.

When you ask someone about promoting racing via social media, in the current form that #Americasbestracing does, you will get a cacophony of opinion. Some of the harsh words are likely warranted, some likely not.

I'm in the middle, and on my demographic horse, so to speak. 

There is nothing - absolutely nothing - wrong with promoting the sport via social media, with bands, food trucks, booze, celebrities and floppy hats. This is simply PR, like Pepsi doing event marketing with a celebrity, or the NFL working with the United Way. People seeing live horse racing in a fun, light, happy way, is not in any way detrimental.

What I think many miss, as well, is that the process is more than that. Governments hold the purse strings to racing in many ways, namely slot machines. Keeping the sport in the nation's consciousness is important; some would say vital.

I received an email from someone a few weeks ago that alluded to just that. He noted a government official he knew went "gaa gaa" over hearing about a food truck day. Seriously. Drop the juice two points and it doesn't have the same effect. In fact, the official would likely wonder why horse racing would want to lose money, because his or her understanding of gambling probably borders on their understanding of ancient Tibetan agricultural tools. But food trucks, hats, Mr. Cougar (or Miss, or Mrs, I get that mixed up, too), cool.

Government officials seeing a horse trend on twitter, seeing Richie Sambora playing a national anthem at a race, seeing a race on TV, seeing tweetstorms about a floppy hat does something. It's easier to kill something with legislation, if you never hear about it.

What's obviously missing from this strategy is what's always missing from these strategies: Increasing wagering. And that's what I think has most anti-ABR people scratching their heads.

Like them, in my view an #ABWLive - America's Best Wagering - is needed and as a stand alone entity. Promoting the game of wagering with one voice with resources, with verve, with a proper strategy (no small task) to speak to the market who bets, is something that's never been tried before. 'Go Baby Go" and "Who do you like today" were slogans, not strategies.

But the barriers to a global betting initiative like this are fierce, and it is emblematic of a wagering business that continues to struggle with an identity crisis.

While #ABRLive hums along with little interference, add wagering to the mix with an #ABWLive and we get a lot of interference. Magna and Twinspires (who would probably help fund such an initiative) and TVG would be promoting each others businesses. Horsemen, who would be asked to kick in a little slots money, would not be liking those internet platforms gaining customers because, well, "they don't pay enough to put on the show." Throw in the fact the powers in charge would want to promote wagers like a quardruple, quadrefecta jackpot to new players (or even worse, a Parx trifecta), killing them off before they even start to get interested, our can of corn turns into a can of worms.

#ABRLive exists because it can exist. It's easier to pass a food truck day than it is to pass a takeout reduction. It's easy to pass a few bucks to promote a guitar playing rocker and a floppy hat than it is to promote a contest site (that someone is suing). It's easier to hand out a free drink coupon than a free past performance, because the drink coupon is not owned by Bacardi-base.

#ABRLive serves its purpose, and it was (and is) in many ways a very strong idea. For those who don't like the strategy, I would point to #ABWLive for your fix, but that doesn't exist and won't exist. Considering horse racing is a business that runs on wagering, that's a particularly damning statement, of course. But it is what it is.

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