Will Racing Get A Fighting Chance?

Why aren't we making the product attractive?

I and many others have been advocating the need to roll racing out to a more diverse and younger audience and build much needed new capacity for the sport.

Although there are positive signs that racing is given additional exposure as in the form of programs now on SABC, it is hard to see how this will lead to greater participation without the aid of a more entertaining product line up.

Leon Smuts writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that the ill-fated “Racing It’s a Rush” project could have been successful if backed up by a more interactive entertainment driven product line up but had almost zero impact as there was no compelling reason to get involved in racing other than the constant rehashing of the same uninspiring offering. I hope that new efforts won’t go the same way with innovation ignored and doing the same things over and over.

The importance of lively product entertainment, better quality dividends and greater affordability as critical product characteristics that would make racing more attractive and marketable has not been understood to date and has not been pursued by any operators locally or internationally, while other sports have gained immensely from making this important connection.

It is disappointing that active new customer engagement through product driven marketing seems to be a relatively low priority as I am yet to see evidence of any actionable marketing plan and strategy being introduced.

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Racing needs to build new capacity (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Given that marketing normally takes time to gain momentum and often have considerable lag time before the benefits are fully realised it is a task that should be started urgently rather than forever delaying its introduction.

There seems to be a belief that with a few tweaks many of racings considerable problems will all go away and that there is a lot of low hanging fruit ready to be plucked, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Racing has been on a downward trajectory for many years, and this trend must be reversed through more substantial means despite understandable but regrettable financial constraints.

There is both a need and opportunity to put proper marketing strategies into place and get things moving the right way in a measurable manner with clear objectives, targets, and accountability, but will this happen?

It is a concern to me that our operators do not appear to see the value of much greater efforts to introduce racing to more substantial numbers of prospective customers that could see pools swell and racing become a household name again.

Why are efforts to do so put off and only limited interventions undertaken to grow the sport beyond the current customer base when the need to develop new markets for racing is so clear and critical to ensure the wellbeing of the industry and its beneficiaries?

Are we doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Everything that I have learnt and experienced in marketing suggests that racing is crying out for a separate supportive online offering so that the project can be ring fenced in terms of monitoring growth and to allow operators access to crucial information, some of which are listed below.

  • Customer personal details (age, gender, geographic region, occupation etc)
  • Regularity of involvement
  • Average spend
  • Development in terms of skill
  • Other product uptake and how long after initial involvement
  • Country/Regional/Course preferences
  • Number of new customers and speed of growth

An effective intervention will require a fair deal of upfront but highly necessary funding for a more modern customised platform, and new exotic product offering, which will pay for itself in the medium to longer term and facilitate considerable gains for essentially the operators, but ultimately all parties making a living from racing.

The funding model needs a sustainability boost and the surest way of doing this is through rapid and continuous customer growth and further expansion of income opportunities from this source. A number of additional income opportunities could be unlocked and customers would be willing to pay for this if the product and add-on services offered tangible value for money.

If racing fails to introduce a product backed dedicated marketing program in the foreseeable future, I cannot see how the sport will survive its ageing client base and the eventual and inevitable loss of many of its high turnover customers.

Racing has an undeniable need for large scale customer growth to make up for this impending disaster that is approaching much faster than the sport can afford.

Big racedays have different dimensions (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

The collapse of racing, something previously unthinkable, would be a very sad day given the enjoyment it has provided over so many years to its dedicated followers, and the many that make a living from it day to day and would hope to continue doing so.

Racing can thrive in the right environment if given the support that the sport deserves, but it requires that the customer experience be given a huge upgrade from product to service to prominence.

Will racing finally be given a fighting chance to become attractive, popular, and compelling to a brand-new audience or will the product and marketing can continue to be kicked further down the road?

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