Racing – Facing A New Reality

Fun and a happy customer are the key

With all the flux happening in the world because of Covid 19 and other changes in economic reality is it not time for racing, especially in South Africa, to do some soul searching in terms of determining its future destiny?

Leon Smuts writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that many reports highlight the differences in spending patterns and social and economic behaviour in our new generations and the reality in SA of a much younger population than in many other areas of the world.

This will bring new challenges to all businesses and recreational pursuits and racing will almost certainly be severely affected if not catering for this changing market.

For years the sport has relied on the traditional punter, of which I am one, but this group is getting old and will not be around forever.

Because of racing’s failure to pursue and build new markets the reliance on whales, churn, daily racing and, sad as it may be, addicts, have left the sport very vulnerable to the rapidly changing demographic.

Anyone of the mentioned group that exits racing will leave very hard to fill holes in future and it is a ticking time bomb in terms of the very real age-related cliff.

The question that racing operators need to ask themselves is does the sport and the product mix have what it takes to attract a much-needed new audience?

The answer is not as clear as one might think. I am tempted to say, “hell no”, but this would be a fallacy. Racing’s current range of products have been developed over many years, have stood the test of time and cater for a diverse application that most definitely meets and often exceeds the needs of the current punter base.

So where is the problem then?

The answer lies in racing’s greatest strength which is that skilled players very seldom leave the game. Once skilled, these betting products make a lot of sense and cater for both fun and strategy allowing many different structured approaches around core selections.

We need good information (photo: Refilwe Modise)

The reality is that potential new players are left out in the cold because skill cannot be bought, it takes time, money and effort to develop and is not something that a younger player will be willing to work their way towards unless they are having a whole lot of fun during the process.

Right here is racing’s biggest dilemma as the current product mix fall way short of what would qualify as affordable fun and entertainment for any new prodigy.

I have been harping on about this for longer than my stamina allows but somehow this very relevant angle to the marketing of racing  is either misunderstood or not appreciated for its relevance. When I talk about new products it is always in this context and it is the most important and ignored element in racing today.

Wocket Woy

It’s all about having fun

The challenge then for racing is not only to have the product and betting products that will attract interest, but it needs to stimulate and ensure interest for an extended period of time, to contribute to rapid skills development.

This is the most crucial aspect of any new product offering, and if these elements are not specifically addressed, will add no value in the context of building sustainable and rapidly growing markets for racing. These are important finer points that are badly digested by those tasked with attracting new players to the game.

The critical elements of an acquisition game with which new interest can be explored and developed are as follows:

  • Need much larger and rapidly growing potential prize money and bigger and more regular pay outs for greater visibility and initial interest
  • A format that removes in game elimination as maximum exposure of new players to racing are needed for each game and the outcome of each race needs to be of value to all participants
  • Games should promote competition between participants, utilizing a contest methodology to ensure an active interest in the game, greater enjoyment and a less predictable outcome
  • Affordability needs to be broad based and even the smallest permutation should give the player an improved chance of being competitive and able to win
  • There should be ample incentive for players to continue playing again the very next event through growing pools and a fun first, player orientated structure
  • Ensure that skill and improvements in skill are measurable, recognized and rewarded
  • Reward the ability to find winners and placed runners with superior reward for finding longer priced positional finishers
  • The game must be online as very few future players will enjoy the confines of a tote and everything already happens on mobile in their lives.
  • A format that guarantees pay outs each game whilst in pursuit of the big pay day
  • A guaranteed future big pay day or pay days

The central theme must be to make involvement fun and entertaining and to build player skill and interest through an effective format.

Evidence proves, that once skilled, the player is likely to remain as a supporter of the sport and can be expected to be a candidate for other products on offer.

This simple, but well researched marketing philosophy, backed up by a tangible offering, could be marketed with confidence as the product will have real benefits to both players and operators.

Racing needs a simple philosophy of offering value for money entertainment with a realistic opportunity of creating more and bigger winners through demonstrable skill rather than luck alone.

New ideas like Triple 8 Racing presents interesting alternatives and will be good for creating awareness but the simplest solution will come from an overhaul of the product mix.

Targeting participation is a considerably better alternative to past attempts to market through attendance (which has been tried unsuccessfully for years) as it gets right to the heart of the matter.

Racing is just a whole lot more fun if you are actively involved in the game rather than being an onlooker from the sideline.

The challenge has always been not just to get people to come to racing, and have a bet, but how to make it a regular pursuit that will grow in popularity.

The best way to do it in my estimate is to provide more entertaining new game formats that will showcase the beauty of the sport whilst targeting critical objectives.

Games should be entertaining, accessible, affordable and fun, as this will make it a hell of a lot easier to convince someone to be involved, with time spent in the game providing the rest.

The short duration of races is a huge plus that can be fully taken advantage of through mobile apps aimed at new generations. The game doesn’t have to be boring with hours spent at the track when the player can follow racing as it happens in between their other interests and from wherever they might be. Allow more suitable games to create the visibility that is needed and to do the heavy lifting in the marketing department.

Sometimes we complicate a simple thing by concentrating on what the business needs rather than what the customer would want and this has to be the starting point.

We should never forget that playing should predominantly be about having fun as this will ensure a happy customer and repeat involvement.

Make it all about the player and the playing experience to ensure success.

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