Hello racing fans!
I spent lunch watching the USTA meetings today. Two items they were voting on were the budgets ($120,000) for television and $250,000 for the reputation management, digital marketing and outreach program that has been going on for a few years.
In the end both things passed, which is probably a good thing.
As a sport, harness racing has been left behind badly in this vein. The Thoroughbreds have the NTRA, the Jockey Club and the Breeders Cup with dedicated budgets doing those things. The spend is in, or near the tens of millions. Individual racetracks have departments doing much of it, as well, and let's not forget the money spent marketing for big races, like the Triple Crown.
Little of the above money spent is measurable in terms of new betting dollars or new ownership - in fact, both of those metrics are down. However, they have played a role in i) keeping the sport in the nation's consciousness and ii) help when the sport gets hammered in state houses.
Harness racing has very little of this spend and branding, and it is up to organizations like the USTA to bring people together to pass these things.
Why on online stories do people outside the sport of harness racing think all trainers are chemists? Dumb farmers? Thoroughbred racing has the same vets, and the same people wanting to sell backstretch brown bottles as harness racing. Thoroughbred racing has the same rural bent, but we don't hear they're "dumb" or "cheaters".
Thoroughbred racing has spent money on reputation management, spent money on their message and do so each year. And that's something that can't be measured by return on investment. It's measured when decoupling comes and Pompano Park is shuttered, while Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs happily card races.
When I watch these meetings what I find disconcerting is the lack of vision. The big picture either can't be comprehended, or is something that doesn't register. For all companies or sports, the ones with vision last, the ones that don't have it, fail.
Harness racing's initiatives will be under the same fire next year at this time. The same arguments against them will be made, the same criticisms will be heard. It's a perpetual merry-go-round, and it's one reason the sport is where it is. After watching today, I really don't see that changing.
Have a nice day everyone.
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