The following guest commentary was written by Greg Douglas, Hastings Racecourse publicist, in response to Ray's piece, “Fading Newspaper Turf Writers Bad for Racing's Key Demo” that was published last week.
In reference to your recent article “Fading Newspaper Turf Writers Bad for Racing's Key Demo,” there is no question that there is not much racing media left from the traditional standpoint for the daily newspapers as pointed out in the story.
I happen to be one of those track publicists who used to spend most of his time alone in the press box with an Equibase chart crew.
But as we have proven at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, there is a solution. Through some creative thinking on the part of our young (early 30s) General Manager Raj Mutti, we have managed to attract a new and excited 19-35 demographic that complements the “old guard'” regulars.
The mission began four years ago with the introduction of what we called “Friday Night Live” racing, emphasizing that Hastings Racecourse was the place to be and place to be seen as an entertainment destination. We included radio remotes, live bands, discounts on food and beverages and hired a team of wagering ambassadors to wander through the crowd teaching those new to the track the betting process.
Eventually, the younger demographic caught on to what live racing had to offer and it resulted in our Saturday/Sunday crowds improving to a large extent.
With the larger crowds came added media exposure to the point where Vancouver's two major daily newspapers began assigning bloggers to Hastings and online editors clamoring for racing information and feature article suggestions, exposure that frequently made its way back onto the traditional newspaper pages. That trend continued through the 2012 Thoroughbred season, enabling Hastings Racecourse to show an increase in mutuel handles over the previous year … unique in the industry by today's standards.
True, Vancouver is not Louisville, New York or Lexington. But it is Canada's second-largest city with professional hockey, football, baseball and soccer franchises.
I am pleased to advise that our press box at Hastings Racecourse has become alive again with a curious media treating racing as an important part of our sporting landscape because of the improved crowds with a much younger demographic mixing in comfortably with the traditional older gathering of race fans.
Unlike the accepted phrase “Build It & They Will Come,” I would humbly suggest that racetrack operators take a page from Mr. Mutti's aggressive approach of “Promote It & They Will Come.”
Not only customers, but media, too.
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