ATTRACTING BRANDS TO HORSE RACING (AND THE RE-BRANDING OF HORSE RACING)

By Hans Ebert
@HansEbertMusic
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Those in advertising and especially those who were in advertising when it was booming and everything seemed possible know all too well that nothing lasts forever.

When at DDB, we produced enough award winning work for McDonald’s that would fill around a thousand McHappy Meals. TC- Transaction Count- was up, and everything was up. We had taught the world the Big Mac Challenge, convinced customers to describe McDonald’s fast food outlets as restaurants and sold the mantra about the McQualities of Q,S,C,V- quality, service, cleanliness and value.

This marriage between McDonald’s and DDB was going to go the distance. It didn’t. After decades together, McDonald’s left us for a new partner.

Advertising is a tough business and winning and holding onto clients is even tougher. If there’s a senior management change and the account is up for “renewal”, it’s is another way of saying, Adios, amigos. It’s the big Kiss Off.

Every business that depends on advertising- and sponsorship is advertising- is almost always on the front foot to make these partnerships work while always- always- looking at potential new clients. Just in case.

More and more, advertisers want more bangs for their buck. It’s not them being Oliver Twisted. It’s business, the economy and about looking at the effectiveness of the partnership.

Sales go down and marketing and advertising budgets are the first to be cut.

This leads to the question, Who
is looking at advertisers and sponsors and their potential roles in the present and future of horse racing?

Advertisers are needed for horse racing to move forward. Of course for their marketing dollars, but also for their databases. And to perhaps work with their ad agencies.

There’s much that can be learned from the right ad agency. Repeat: Right ad agency. Plenty are filled with Yes People. The right ad agency has done the hard yards. They have other clients on their rosters who might have a yet undiscovered role to play in horse racing.

These right ad agencies can bring more of everything to the party. Like even changing those laborious presentation ceremonies that are only a photo opp for the owners. After all these years, these exercises in irrelevance are left to just meander along. With a little thought, they could actually be more than they are. Perhaps part of a “Winning” campaign. But here’s not the place to brainstorm.

Too much from Ye Olde Big Book Of Horse Racing is allowed to carry on in a Monty Pythoneque manner until everyone and everything is singing from the silly hymn book.

Interspersed are the usual sound bites about reaching “younger people” and being “customercentric” while the actual image of horse racing continues without ever being clearly defined.

How’s is horse racing presented to perspective business partners? Where’s the beef? The USP? How exactly does it take two to tango? Questions, always more questions…

Surely it’s also time to explore how these partnerships can work better using all the new delivery platforms available and, at the same time, attract more marquee value brands?

Forget that they sell “sneakers” and are associated with soccer and basketball stars, but why can’t horse racing attract brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok?

All three brands have a corporate ethos. Most of us recognise the Nike swish and the theme “Just Do It”. Why can’t “Just Do It”, which is now tackling more socially aware subjects, work with horse racing?

“Just Do It” says never give up, don’t let anything hold you back. Dream big. Plus Nike’s inspirational social responsibility campaigns are not only brilliant, they’re relevant to everyone. They’re inspiring. It’s about winning the human race.

Isn’t this what much of horse racing is about? Or trying to say in its communications? And if not, why not? Think about it.

Also think whether horse racing is viewed today by advertisers as an old one-dimensional pastime or something with the potential to reach a new and younger generation. Every business wants everything younger. (There’s nothing like stating the obvious).


Telling- and the bells are tolling- is that one of the main advertisers on a sports and racing radio station in Melbourne is, well, a funeral home. Hardly a magnet for other advertisers. One would again need the presentation skills of that ad man Don Draper to convince advertisers that horse racing is alive and awake. That there’s still life in those old legs.

This is not to say that changing mind sets is impossible. But first, horse racing must shake off the mothballs and slapping on the Old Spice. Dad bathed in that stuff.

This is 2019 and it’s a world in change. It’s full of weird surprises where one has to wonder what’s real and what’s not.

In especially the Eighties in Hong Kong, horse racing was closely tied to winning and the celebratory dinners that followed.

Big spending cognac brands like Hennessy, and Martell selling “aspiration” joined “the racing club” with television commercials where “Hey, Big Spender” played in the background while rich, happy looking men clinked glasses and guzzled premium brand cognacs with nightclub hostesses joining in the celebrations. It worked wonderfully. For that time. It captured Hong Kong nightlife. For that time. But times change.

Like the newspaper, upmarket magazines and everything else that has been gobbled up by the social media genie, the golden days of the Mad Men of advertising and million dollar budgets are long gone.

Advertising is desperately trying to reinvent itself at a time when Instagram, especially, and other online mediums have become homes for consumer generated content.


Consumer generated content. If one thinks about it, this might be the most effective advertising around- consumers sharing information and The New with other consumers. For free. And immediately. It’s almost as good as word of mouth advertising.

This need to reinvent as to how messages are presented to that big old world outside and also potential advertisers looking for something new to refresh their brands just might be a wake up call for horse racing to remove the blinkers and prove an attractive new alternative- but with the right makeover. Nothing stays the same.


A few weeks ago, an advertiser, talking about the current environment and consumer trends and demands, asked a slew of questions about horse racing: Who are horse racing’s KOLS- Key Opinion Leaders? Does horse racing have celebrity endorsements? Paris Jackson, once or still a vegan, being the celebrity guest at the Melbourne Cup, doesn’t count.

What are the ratio of females versus males involved in horse racing? Who is there with on course advertising to the female race goer?

The HKJC has the cosmetics brand SaSa who work brilliantly with the Club for SaSa Ladies Day. It’s more than “naming rights”. It’s a very holistic approach to enhancing the total on course experience. And also owning it.

Another very good example of smart sponsorship of marketing their product at Sha Tin racetrack is BMW. With its brand ambassador- Actor Donny Yen- being actively involved in inter-acting with race goers, it’s all about a different kind of horsepower.

There were other questions: Who DOES endorse horse racing? How does horse racing use social media? What are the mediums for the message (s)? What are the messages?

Tough questions, but there are answers. What’s needed are not Noddy, Big Ears and more decisions by committee. There have been enough of those.

Needed are experienced and creative marketers with the presentation skills and ability to think on their feet to provide these answers- and get results that move everything forward.

It’s really not that hard.

#horseracing #sponsorshipmarketing #marketing #advertising #DonDraper #USP #Martell #Hennessy #HansEbert #McDonald’s #HKracing #BMW #DonnyYen #HansEbert #SasaLadiesDay

AND THAT’S HOW HONG KONG ENDED UP WITH CANTO POP- AND CANTO PAP

By Hans Ebert
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Often one wishes for that the Cha Cha was still in vogue in Hong Kong. Going back to watch those old black and white Cantonese movies from the fifties, there was always a scene in a nightclub where the lead actors were talking while doing the Cha Cha. It was cool kitsch.

For a while, there was the Offbeat Cha Cha which, one supposes, was trying to change something so simple and perfect for the sake of change.

The Cheongsam and the Cha Cha went together. It was sex on heels. All those gorgeous Chinese actresses like Lin Dai and those sassy Cha Cha moves.

Continue reading “AND THAT’S HOW HONG KONG ENDED UP WITH CANTO POP- AND CANTO PAP”

HONG KONG RACING: THE GOOD, THE WEIRD AND THE GOOFY

By Hans Ebert
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Though the last couple of meetings were a bit like Superman being struck down by kryptonite, at least looking at his book rides, January 1, 2019 looks to be the day when The Magic Returns and Joao Moreira wins back his flock. Please, no more kryptonite!

Last Wednesday, two of the favourites he was on- sizzling hot favourites that many refused to believe could be beaten were. One was going off at $1.4.

Continue reading “HONG KONG RACING: THE GOOD, THE WEIRD AND THE GOOFY”

ADAM LAMBERT: COVERED AND BELIEVING

It’s been done many times over: take an upbeat and well known song and slow it down to a ballad or turn it into bossa nova, neo classical or that obtuse term many refer to as “Jazz”. It never is Jazz. It’s simple Pop. But turning a popular Top 40 track into a ballad is no easy thing to pull off. It’s where A&R skills, a knowledge of someone’s back catalogue and arrangement come into play. And about very personal feelings.

Ryan Adams flipping the Oasis hit “Wonderwall” into a tender love song is a track where all the pieces fit. It seems to have been recorded ‘live’ with Adams wanting something raw, real and emotional. It works. Beautifully.

Continue reading “ADAM LAMBERT: COVERED AND BELIEVING”

DOING THE HUSTLE: TRENDING AGAIN IN ASIA

By Hans Ebert
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Van McCoy was a man ahead of his time. He saw the great Hustle of the 2000s coming long before anyone else did. He even recorded The Hustle.

For those of you into such things, hustling and The Hustle is what’s trending everywhere- at least “trending” as a means to an end and to get somewhere. Often, very often, The Hustle blind the easily star struck.

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A SURREAL SATURDAY AWAITS AT SHA TIN TODAY

By Hans Ebert
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They say a nudge is
as good as a wink
And that a big name
from Sydney
will be in Hong Kong
long before anyone thinks
He’ll add star power to
the trainers ranks
It’s really not that hard
to fill the missing link

Some say April
will see a big announcement
About a changing of the guard
Something Moore to
stir the pie?
With some Whyte sauce
on the side?
And what will Georgie say to that?
And is it really
that big a surprise?

The rumour mill goes round and round
There’s something new every day
Someone’s going
someone’s staying
And how someone’s gotta pay

Continue reading “A SURREAL SATURDAY AWAITS AT SHA TIN TODAY”

THE FEMALE SINGER IN ASIA: NEXT CAREER PORT OF CALL?

By Hans Ebert
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For those female artists in Asia who know that no matter how “mature” they might be that their pulling power at those huge and often way over the top ‘live’ concerts worth millions to them will always be there along with Star Appeal, especially at home and which might travel to markets nearby, international fame, no matter how small, eludes them.

Is this fame important to them? Not financially, but as part of their portfolio- part of enhancing their image, and that thing called face/pride, definitely. Maybe not much anymore as no one knows where music is heading and what’s in it for anyone other than coasting along and making that existing brand as relevant and expensive as it can be. Of course, one must first actually have a brand.

Continue reading “THE FEMALE SINGER IN ASIA: NEXT CAREER PORT OF CALL?”

THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF HONG KONG RACING’S BUTCH AND SUNDANCE…

By Hans Ebert
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A few years ago, many of us in Hong Kong would look at the race card and draw a line over whatever it was that Douglas Whyte was riding. He seemed to be thrown some scraps and just going around for the hell of it and probably far more interested in having the opportunity to ride a winner in Perth. And which he did until the HKJC correctly changed the Rules about Hong Kong based jockeys making those often fruitless overseas flying visits.

Continue reading “THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF HONG KONG RACING’S BUTCH AND SUNDANCE…”

THE IMPORTANCE OF LOR AND ORDER

By Hans Ebert
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While Zac Purton chills out somewhere serving out the rest of his enforced holiday aka three day suspension, Silvestre de Sousa and Karis Teetan are apparently bobbing up and down to keep their rides on Dark Dream and Perfect Match, respectively.

Both riders were deputising for Purton at Sha Tin on Sunday, both won and both gallopers, especially the Frankie Lor trained Dark Dream, look like going to the uppermost of the toppermost, Johnny.

Continue reading “THE IMPORTANCE OF LOR AND ORDER”