Racing’s marketing efforts outlined at ARC


The ongoing pursuit of attracting and retaining horse racing customers through marketing was the topic of the fifth business session of the 36th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) in Mumbai.

Vivek Jain, former Chairman and now Committeeman for the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), described the ongoing efforts of the Conference’s host country. “A focus area for us has been to encompass the digital space. We became the first Club in India to live stream our races and are constantly innovating and upgrading,” said Mr. Jain. “Recently we launched RWITC TV, a subsidiary website providing interviews, trackwork and international racing content.”

Mr. Jain acknowledged the ongoing challenges facing the marketing of racing in India. “Though racing’s popularity amongst the general public is debatable, the pomp, pageantry and rich colonial heritage are hard to deny. Few areas in Mumbai can match the 226 acres of green land in the heart of South Bombay, home to joggers, walkers, equestrian riders, and with the sweep of the Arabian Sea on its doorstep. We are doing everything possible to preserve this open space so racing continues here as it has for 130 years.”

Richard Cheung, Executive Director, Customer and Marketing, Hong Kong Jockey Club, updated attendees on the marketing experience he leads in the region after a comprehensive review of the Club’s experience when they hosted the last Asian Racing Conference. “The development of our Happy Wednesday brand continues to be a shining example of the Club’s gains in recent years, especially as it is a key driver in building a tourism brand popular with expats and has served us well as a popular corporate entertainment venue,” said Mr. Cheung.

“A visit to Happy Valley is widely recognized by various travel platforms as one of Hong Kong’s top ten tourism spots, and our significant attention through these marketing programs is key to our success.” Among the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new initiatives includes a mobile television application enabling customers to watch live racing and football, connecting offline physical promotional materials with online digital content, and adapting virtual reality gear to help educate newer customers.

Cheung added details of the Club’s introduction of the Composite Win bet, an enhancement to a traditional win wager, in which horses are grouped together to create a new way to bet to win while using the liquidity of the win pool. “For example, nearly eight percent of all win bets on our four Hong Kong International Races were entered via the Composite Win channel, where horses were grouped by their home region. This gave customers a chance to easily support horses in a manner similar to cheering for a home team, as you would at any international sporting competition.”

The engine behind the bet, created and managed by Longitude, was described in greater detail at Tuesday’s opening session by their Chief Executive Officer, Tom Ascher.

The customer-oriented marketing innovations of the Korea Racing Authority were outlined by Ben Heo, the KRA’s Executive Director, Marketing. “We realized that we were in a vicious cycle, and ultimately stagnation. We simultaneously realized that a changing image could help break that cycle,” said Mr. Heo. “Due to that, our chairman, in early 2014, announced his resolution to break this – ‘change everything except the horse.’ To do that, we redefined the objectives with a focus on four innovations around our brand, OCBs [off-course betting], digital, and service.”

The recent launch of a renewed brand, a transformation of off-course betting infrastructure, along with new digital and service innovations have yielded early positive results. The KRA has experienced a turnover increase amongst high-value customers even while enduring declining attendance. Similarly, Mr. Heo noted brand awareness and favourability ratings are up 150 and 87 percent in the last year, respectively.

Dr. Eliot Forbes, Chief Executive Officer of Tasracing, described the remarkable growth experienced in Tasmania, and its foundations in a revised marketing effort. “Over the last three years, we have delivered a 30 percent growth in wagering and 53 percent growth in racing revenues. This growth has been delivered with the same volume of product along with a reduced cost base,” said Dr. Forbes.

“Tasracing’s product strategy has been at the heart of our growth. Racing is a traditional product, but we have pursued some very simple and very effective product strategies to achieve differentiation. By promoting our island status,” Dr. Forbes continued, “we have differentiated our product as unique in the Australian landscape and through the development of thoroughbred night racing, and focused on augmenting our product offering with a range of digital wagering tools designed to enhance that brand value proposition.

“For us, night racing has consistently provided a 20 percent premium over equivalent domestic day time markets. Night racing from Tasmania is regularly exported and our international revenue from Sky Racing has grown nearly 200 percent over the last four years, with night racing being a key driver for those returns.”

The session came to a close following the presentation of Nick Addison, Executive General Manager Commercial Operations for the Victoria Racing Club (VRC). While citing examples from the Melbourne Spring Carnival, Mr. Addison noted the points from his presentation were relatively universal across the sport. “Sponsorship is a critical global tool for brands looking to get ahead of their competitors and racing is capable of securing its slice of the action. An integrated approach needs to be adopted to deliver a unique promotional platform capable of delivering optimal ROI for sponsors.”

“Racing can provide one of the most unique promotional platforms for sponsorship in the world,” continued Mr. Addison. “It is gender neutral, appeals to broad demographics and age brackets, is international as the sport has global relevance and reach, is media friendly, and has a unique mix of sport and entertainment that has the capacity to engrain itself into society. Sponsors connect with racegoers in unique environments, racegoers experiences are enhanced over and above what it would be if these initiatives weren’t there, and the sponsors help fund the investment to deliver these.”