WHERE EXACTLY IS HORSE RACING HEADING?

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

It was a challenge and a random exercise to see how much we had changed along with the world around us. A friend asked me to open a Twitter account saying that my old and fairly popular horse racing blog Racingb*tch was back as Racing Buzzfeed, follow a few people and see how I felt and what might happen.

That was at 8am on Sunday. By noon, I had grown bored with it. There were a few followers, I had tweeted a few innocuous messages, and that was the extent to this exercise in futility. It wasn’t just stupid, it brought back memories of those who were continuously lampooned on Racingb*tch- and who are still there and doing the same old walk of life.

Speaking that afternoon to a friend about a musical project we’re working on, there was the realisation that not only had the thrill gone to write about horse racing, but how none of it really mattered. It was adding to already present unnecessary clutter and underlining how some things just run their course- relationships, marriages, blogs.

One should be writing as some form of creative release and only to please one person: You. It’s like making music. If this music isn’t first and foremost something personal, you’re duping yourself. If others warm to it and wanna come along for the ride, fine. And if they don’t, that’s fine, too.

As for horse racing, sure, I enjoy certain elements of it, but others I can do without. Maybe now, twenty years later, I have seen all sides to it and have decided that what matters most is being right here and in the now. It’s not about wanting to work on Maggie’s Farm anymore and living in the past like some Kunta Kinte. It’s more about being Django unchained.

Horse racing is undergoing a season of change. This season has been going on for around ten years, but 2018 has shown that there’s a need to change or perish. Change or perish. Not used as a repetitious sound bite by The Man From The North Country to flog his beloved love fest to the Sherpas built around his personal agenda and career timetable, but everything to do with customer demographics and realising that every industry is after the same consumer dollar in an age of entitlement and where everyone is spoiled for choice.

For horse racing and racing clubs it’s about survival, but not through revisiting the past, tweaking what was then and thinking this is change. It’s chump change.

Instead, it’s about working with a clean slate, enhancing the original business model and attracting new players to the party. Nothing and no one stays the same. Formulaic thinking means more of the same and the same is irrelevant. It’s navel gazing stuff.

Looking back at two decades of skating along the periphery of horse racing, what has really changed? Not much. Sure, there’s been the explosion of social media and horse racing has tried to go along for the ride, but it’s been a contrived one and with absolutely no direction or exit strategy.

It’s also been a ride that has created the illusion of being forward thinking and, like music companies two decades ago realising that they had been ambushed by the upstarts running the digital age, allowing in flim flam men with the ability to bamboozle many through talk of hashtags and algorithms and followers and views.

This hot air has been accepted at face value by those lacking balls and hoping like hell that it might help keep them riding the gravy train for a few more years.

Again, it’s about survival and personal timelines. Nothing wrong with this as everyone- everyone- is looking after número uno. But where’s the balance between continuing to work by joining the dots and working towards achieving something that’s relevant and with a future?

The great advertising men- those Mad Men who the character Don Draper was based on- threw themselves into creating the very best work. Award winning work. It was their life, wife and child.

They fed off each other’s work. It was in their DNA. It was about how to reach the consumer with advertising that reached heart and head. It was about breaking the pattern. It was always about producing work that sold the product and also won awards- the Clio in New York, the Gold Lion in Cannes, every worthwhile advertising award in London.

Today, we call this work “content”. And this “content” is lazy creative and even more lazily shared on various online platforms despite many knowing that nothing is standing out and everything has become clutter in a faked out world of false fame.

Along with every other industry, horse racing is trying to fit in. It’s following all the other sheeple. But where’s it heading and how many are coming along for the ride? And even if they do come along for the ride, how long before they bail? Even the most rabid gambler has a choice. And an exit plan. No one can afford to lose forever. The team that plays together cannot also lose together. Or can it?

Watching those new to horse racing and coming by to check out if they like what they see, they’re more risk averse than ever. They’re smarter than the average bear, Boo Boo. They need to know that they WILL win IF they’re to join the game. It’s not about giving them more information on everything to stay in the game, it’s about them truly UNDERSTANDING the game.

Before buying into more apps and downloading more information they don’t need nor understand, it’s about attracting them to the excitement and entertainment value of horse racing. And horse racing as entertainment is something racing clubs still have to get their heads around.

Turnover might be fine. For now. But on course attendances are on a downward slide. Let’s not kid ourselves that one or two race meetings a year attended by “record breaking crowds” is ammunition for the future. It’s not. It’s shooting blanks and hyping the hype machine.

Nothing has really changed, has it? Other than those born into horse racing and now twenty to thirty years older, what’s changed other than the consumer who’s twenty and thirty years younger being offered a buffet of choices? But why care, correcto mundo?

Some won’t be around to see a brave new world so just keep recycling everything that’s come before and try to repackage this in designer clothing and play for time. But designer brands don’t accept the old because even designer brands are looking to stay relevant as they too are facing competition as there’s Mr and Ms Choice out there also offering more value for money.

This isn’t the Eighties and Nineties where choice was limited. Everything is now out there with much of it available for free. There’s no need to pay to play. Just press “Play” to play. It’s like listening to all the music you want on Spotify. Or watching all the free porn that’s out there. Or streaming ‘live’ sporting events. For free.

The business world and even the regular world has been sucker punched. It’s often sucker punching itself. Gawd knows where it all went wrong, but we’re actually settling for mediocrity and lowering the bar. Talk about Artificial Intelligence.

Horse racing has a few good people- pragmatic and realistic enough to realise they need to work with new thinkers not still stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again making mewing sounds- plus a small Thumbelina handful of leaders born to lead.

What’s needed are those outside of the bowels of horse racing to work with these executives- professionals from OTHER industries with the experience and expertise in building customer relationships, being creative content providers instead of order takers and a hiring process that can attract this talent.

This is what will wake horse racing up from its current age of somnambulism and very probably surprise even itself by being much more than it currently is and where often everything is swept along by the hardcore thinkers.

They cannot or refuse to see that in this day and age they’re looking and sounding like the vacuous blowhards that they are. It’s a rarified community of flatulence and mediocrity comprising short term thinking and doing the Dance Of The Fairies at short term gains.

Horse racing can learn SO much from the foibles of the music industry where music companies saw the minefields and still walked straight into them. Arrogance and ignorance is often bliss.

#horseracing #socialmedia #marketing #creativity #advertising #Racingb*tch #HansEbert #consumers

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