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Racing: Stumbling Along

The Durban July should be about the horse - not fashion designers!
11 September 2014


racing its a rush launchNo Rush?

Following on from my somewhat tame criticism of the “Racing It’s a Rush” campaign and by the off chance that anyone employed by Phumelela read it and are  uttering the words. ”These people like to criticize but never come up with a solution”, I would like to give my perspective on the state of the SA Racing industry, analyze the short comings and offer a possible solution, writes reader Gernot Pansi.

So we are faced with some challenges. The first step in finding a solution to our challenges is to accept that a problem exists.

We need to identify the challenges by drilling down into each core segment that make up the racing industry i.e. the Horse owner, the Gambler ,the Bookies, the Trainers, the Media, the Socialites and last but certainly not least the shareholders.
In my opinion why business experiences a decline (Racing is a Business!) is largely twofold:
Business’s in most instances deal with the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem.
In an instance where a Business has succeeded in identifying the root cause of its problem “the powers that be” are not willing to make the required change as this often involves making unpopular decisions.
Acting in one’s self interest is another a major hurdle at board level.
Now let’s look at each of the stakeholders in detail and try to identify the core failings and possible solutions:

pnters and gamblers choosing their bets

The Gambler:

Without a doubt an extremely important member of the Industry. From my perspective the issue here is that we classify all the gamblers in one category. It is crucial that we differentiate between the Casual Gambler (who gambles for fun), The Social (ite) Gambler who gambles on big race days and who’s prime concern is the social part of racing. The discerning gambler who goes quietly about his business on the internet. And lastly what I call the avid gambler which are those people who hang around in the Betting shops all day. They all have different needs and wants. Just from the above classification I don’t see how we can appeal to all of the potential Gamblers with the current Racing: It’s a Rush campaign. Ok so you are not trying to attract only Gamblers wit this campaign you might say. My point exactly then. You are wasting your time and money.
Having attended the Durban July over the past 10 years or so I believe that it is this obsession with fashion and not the Horse that is killing the game. It attracts the wrong people to the course. First and foremost it needs to be about Racing and the Horse and not a showcase for designers. Let’s have advertising campaigns showing the horses, the owners and Jockey rather than Fashion models.
The same incidentally is happening to the Million Dollar Golf Challenge. It is no longer about Golf but a social event for corporates. Fine, it makes the balance sheet look good, but it does nothing for Golf i.e. like sell merchandise, get more people into the game. We need to learn from that.

race horse ownership

Horse Ownership:

It is very difficult for someone who is currently not in involved in racing to get involved in ownership. From my own experience I did not know where or who to turn too until I accidentally stumbled on a Website that offered Syndication. Most of this comes down to simple access of information through the media platform (and I don’t mean Tellytrack as this is only viewed by people already in the industry).I am not saying that the information does not exist, it’s just difficult to find it if you not already in racing.

Once an owner, the ownership experience leaves much to be desired as you are not taken seriously unless you are one of the “Big Boy’s” as it were. I do appreciate that you need to look after the people that pay the majority of your bills, but if you want to grow the business you need to look after the small owners. They are absolutely key to future growth of the industry. This is very closely connected to our next stakeholder.

The Trainer:

From personal experience communication with their Owners is their single biggest downfall. I know that the trainers are essentially horsemen, but in this day and age, and in order to attract new owners and more importantly keep them, you need to communicate at least 2 to 3 times a day. With all the social media platform available there should be no excuse. This is what young people want (and the industry needs young people badly). Lack of information is my single biggest frustration. If a trainer does not communicate young people in particular will lose interest particularly during the tough times of ownership.

Bookies:

The ongoing issues are well documented. Simple solution. Just communicate in a consistent and frequent manner. Make them feel part of the industry, involve them in the decision making process from the outset and there will be no problems.

Media:

I want to start with Tellytrack .
I like the new format (looking forward to HD) but yet again we need to look at getting presenters that can identify with the various segments of the market. I don’t think the “new race goer” that we trying to attract can identify with many of the presenters. Again I am not questioning their knowledge and enthusiasm. But the fact is if one cannot identify with someone you will not listen and loose interest. It’s like having a Rap Artist preaching at a Sunday church meeting. Nobody is going to listen. We need to have a Multidimensional approach when presenting at the meetings. And please can we have some standard with regards to Dress Code (and in some cases grooming) for presenters.
We also need to make use of ALL media platforms (newspaper, public broadcaster etc) available to get the message across consistently. Racing: It’s a Rush was launched a month ago and is not visible outside of racing circles. It is barely even visible within racing circles. A simple observation here. That logo is a waste of time. It does not stand out enough! This is a very basic market error.

The Socialite:fashion anjd designers at vodacom july

Very important as they have the disposable income. But they want to spend it in style. If we want to attract these people we need to build facilities (at the race course) that encourages them to go there not only during a race meeting but also at off peak times. We need to create a place where people want to spend time. For example: more people visit Old Trafford throughout the year when no game is being played. Why because the place has aura. A sense of special occasion. Ok so this won’t result in additional income to operate Horse Racing per say, but it generates additional income that will keep the facilities liquid and up to a minimum standard. Talking about facilities. We also need to cater for families and this needs to be clearly distinguished by more than a Jumping castle. I know we have the Boxes and the various suites which is nice for people who are comfortable at airport lounges. What about people that want to be closer to the action?

Shareholders:

We all know they are involved for the most part because they want a return on their investment. They must be happy with the current returns and projected earnings. Because from where I am standing I don’t see any real changes. Some high powered business men are now on multiple boards (which I believe is a step in the right direction) but the responsible person’s that are supposed to implement strategies and run the business on a day to day basis have not changed. Many have changed portfolios (or run multiple portfolios) but the faces are still the same. The question I have is. Do all these people have the necessary skills to run with the new portfolio? In some cases I would suggest not. But somehow it seems the Racing Industry is reluctant to change, to turn the tables upside down and break down the current establishment. My advice to Shareholders. You want real change, bring in some new blood that will think out of the box.
So why if we have identified some of the symptoms and root causes, which have been well documented, are we still faced with a declining industry?

rocket science in horse racing

The key is to address all of the identified challenges simultaneously and not in isolation as they are all interdependent oF one another. If there is a weak link it will have a knock on effect and break the chain. That I believe is the root cause of the decline in the racing industry.
To mend and rectify our key challenges is not going to take a lot of money. All it takes is for a handful of willing people (including new blood) to draw up a long term strategy. Action and implement these strategies, communicate with all the stakeholders in a consistent and concise manner. Most importantly monitor and review to see if the plan is on track and objectives met. Make adjustments if and where necessary along the way. We need to fix this now while the Titanic is in motion.

So no more “airy fairy” stuff, mediocre marketing campaigns or ever increasing number of bet types and so on.
Get back to the core of the Racing industry and stick to the basics. It’s not exactly Rocket science.
As someone once said. “The only thing that is Rocket science is Rocket science”

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