The new face of horse racing?
OK, so I’ve gone back and watched, over and over, the two new video promotions for horse racing that were unveiled last week as part of The Jockey Club’s attempts to reenergize the sport through various strategies, including more television, online games, and sweepstakes.
The first ad, focusing on a fictional “Hoof Locker” store, a Derby energy drink, and something called “TheOtherMadness,” is one of those attempts to use lunacy and absurdity to cut through the humdrum clutter of our everyday lives.
The second ad, using “America’s Best Racing” as a new, rebranded moniker for the sport, is a proud recitation of the elegance, history and traditions of our sport, one that as the McKinsey & Co. study released last summer shows, is steadily losing its fan base to other activities and the mortuary.
I’m no marketing expert and merely a focus group of one, but I’ll say this about the first two video pieces in what is expected to be a series. “Hoof Locker” made me laugh, and though I’m not sure exactly what they were selling I’ll be interested to see if the geeky loser tries to get his freak on at the racetrack in the future. “America’s Best Racing” made me yawn, and even after watching it a bunch of times, I don’t remember anything about it.
I’m not against the concept of trying to sell “America’s Best Racing.” It’s really all we have to sell. We certainly can’t promote America’s Worst Racing. That was one of the failures of the original effort by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to market horse racing. You can promote Santa Anita Park or Saratoga or Keeneland, but if you promote into a market that features Fairmount Park or Thistledown, there is very little similarity.
Naturally, the racing fans and industry professionals who visit the Paulick Report hated “Hoof Locker” and loved “America’s Best Racing.” I’m not any smarter than they are, but I do hope they’ll understand that these promotions are not aimed at them, or people like them.
In fact, judging by the “Hoof Locker “ ad, we are trying to reach out to men who are shy, introverted geeks. Not to be cruel, but that’s generally what I saw when I spent some time at the Palm Beach Kennel Club over the last few weeks playing simulcasts and watching the poker room activities, including a World Series of Poker tournament: a bunch of men with hats pulled down over the eyes, wearing sunglasses and listening to something on their iPod. They weren’t real social animals.
So go on with those “Hoof Locker” ads and put the history and traditions of the Sport of Kings in mothballs for awhile. Sell “America’s Best Racing, “ but please find a new way to sell it.