This week everyone was (and is) abuzz with March Madness. The 64 team tournament is a television staple and has been for some time.

Other than the usual - the games on at sports bars and basements for a few weeks - there's some major league betting going on. The American Gaming Association estimates that this year, $9.2 billion will be bet on the tournament.

That $9.2 billion, with an estimated 40 million people partaking, is being bet on schools like Stoney Brook (I found out that's a school on Long Island) and Austin Peay (it's in Tennessee and is named after a governor of the Volunteer state). It will be bet on games played by players like Taniki Smith, Jimmer Davis and Craig Petrie junior. I don't think too many people could find Stoney Brook on a map, and I am 100% sure you don't know who the players I listed above are, because I made them up.

The brand, the event, the buzz drives the interest. It drives all that money.

This is not unlike the Triple Crown in horse racing. I have often said a Triple Crown champion won't do much for racing overall. I have often said that I think you could run 20 five claimers in the Derby, with a 89 beyer winning and people will still show up, drink juleps, and bet. The event trumps just about everything else. It is the driver of just about everything in terms of profitable, tangible interest in the sport of horse racing. The Triple Crown series is racing's March Madness.

Whether it's Grant Hill, or the made up Taniki Smith, or Mine That Bird or Secreatriat, it's the same series.

The sport of racing, or any sport for that matter, can't just create a new Triple Crown, or March Madness. That's silly. But there is some evidence that niche sports can create at least something that works. In Canada we've seen that with made for TV curling or junior hockey, in the US, extreme sports via ESPN is a strong example.

The key, according to many marketers, is that an event has to stand out. It has to tested, it has to be risky. The event has to be built for the niche market itself, not be created and then convince the market it needs it. It can't be mass, in a morass of mass.

Racing's current marketing structure and strategy leans to the mass market. That's probably not the answer.


Tinky said...

Have you considered that anyone betting on individual games will be betting on a team to lose?

Not a perfectly taut analogy, but worth considering.

Pull the Pocket said...

Yes sir. $50 million or so bet on the Grand National at Betfair is betting a whole lotta horses to lose.

It's also 100 times what's in the Kentucky Derby futures parimutuel pools. NA racing plays small ball. It likes seeing eye singles.



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