Most of you won’t know me, but I have studied marketing and have been in marketing for a very large part of my working career and have been involved for some time in developing new products and concepts for racing, focusing specifically on tote offerings.
This is where the sport will get the biggest benefit and where the need for a new approach is the greatest in my estimate.
I was recently informed that my designs might be too complex but as I love criticism and advice and the opportunity that this presents to debate the issue and introduce tweaks, I thought it prudent to elaborate on this very pertinent issue, writes Leon Smuts in the Sporting Post Mailbag.
To be honest I completely agree that there is complexity in my designs, but with due consideration of very specific intentions to introduce racing to a more diverse and younger market.
It should be noted that to the uninitiated even racings current offering is extremely complex given the number of different products, the different rules governing each one and the cost calculation and minimum bet amounts and multiples that apply, and it is one of the main stumbling blocks in the successful marketing of the sport.
Add form studying and analysis into the mix and racing will be a nonstarter for almost anyone not already involved and skilled in the art.
This is not only an issue for potential new customers, but also true for existing players as there is nothing more demoralizing than putting in hours of form study only to be blown out of the water with some formless or one hit wonder horse spoiling the party.
It is this type of frustration or alternatively merely going out early in an exotic, which happens to us all many times, that prompted me to relook the design of pari-mutuel products with an understanding of the negative impact on the customer and more importantly, the psyche of the customer given the elimination-based methodology applied in all exotic bet types being offered.
No amount of spin will eliminate this reality and it will not take any new customer long to figure out that the “brain game tag” is overrated and lacks customer understanding and motivation.
Most existing customers would also prefer more player friendly products that offer improved opportunities to win quality dividends and where their dedication receives more appropriate reward. It is essential that skill is shown to be advantageous and is rewarded properly with products that will pay even when things go awry, results wise.
This requires a level of complexity that cannot be excluded in terms of the methodology applied to determine winners, and a structure with more complex but better and more player friendly rules that will inspire confidence to participate and reward the better and more skilled players for the hours dedicated to form studying.
Just as important is the entertainment value and affordability of new offerings as learning always benefits from enjoyment and the more the enjoyment the quicker a player will learn and gain the rewards and joy of the progress that they make. Less complex games may invite easier entry but without the challenge of growing skill and a way to measure and reward this, the simpler games will soon lose its appeal unless they result in regular winnings which can never be guaranteed.
Never underestimate the ability and willingness of people to learn when what they are offered represents value for money competitive entertainment and a challenging environment within which one can grow and measure up against the opposition.
The popularity and expansion in the USA of competitive for money fantasy league formats as offered on platforms like Fanduel and Draft Kings offer ample support that complexity need not be a negative and will actually be beneficial when reaching out to a more modern and younger customer base.
Racing needs to look outward for solutions and not underestimate the capacity of a huge future customer base willing and able to learn if presented with the right participation offering.