Fan Engagement through Media, Marketing, Data and Sponsorship


Mr. Greg Nichols, Chairman, Racing Australia, and Director, Racing Victoria, chaired Plenary Session 3 entitled Fan Engagement through Media, Marketing, Data and Sponsorship on Wednesday afternoon at the 38th Asian Racing Conference (ARC) in Cape Town, South Africa.

Fan engagement was examined from all angles. Different strategies employed globally in all sports were looked at with a focus on ways for horse racing to unlock its potential through the creation of media content, new products and harnessing of data, with the goal of reaching new audiences, deepen fan engagement and attract new sponsors.

The capture of fan data, aligned with rapidly advancing new technologies, was the underlying theme of the presentations which prompted a closing “call to arms” from the chair.

“There’s an urgency to contemporise the racing business, to ride the crest of the technology wave and the key message is that we cannot procrastinate as racing has a limited time frame to capitalise on the opportunities outlined here today,” summed up Nichols.

Mr Nick Goggans, Founder & CEO of PumpJack Dataworks, described data as the “new oil” as he outlined a commercial strategy centred on fan profiles, data and new technology.

“The value of horse racing is the fan. The data is merely the traits of the fan, but through understanding that data you establish a better connection to your fans and the filter and commercialisation of fan data will only be accelerated by 5G.”

Mr. Goggans said it is vital to understand connecting data and value. “You need to know the value of what you are creating with fan base data. You can have a big vision, but small steps are important and it’s also important to have agility with new technologies.

He asked: “What is the commercial narrative aligned with the data and technology and what makes your fan profile and are the data and commercial goals aligned?.”

There is an imminent “golden era of sponsorship driven through data” according to Mr. Giles Morgan, Independent Consultant and formerly Global Head of Sponsorship for HSBC, who expressed the view that fan engagement, data ownership and adapting to new audiences is vital.

“There is a golden era of sponsorship coming,” Mr Morgan reiterated, “mainly driven by data technology and you’ll have to change the pitch. While sponsors will continue to be attracted for emotive reasons, they’ll want fan data and not just eyeballs. Rights holders have the whip hand if they have proper figures through data to support likely ROI (Return On Investment).

“That data comes from your fans. You have to get hold of your fan and own them - the fan is your most valuable asset.”
Mr. Andrew Catterall, Chief Executive Officer, racing.com, included a range of racing.com-produced videos which highlighted great human-interest stories, encompassing Australia’s recent devastating bush fires, and the need to tell racing’s human and equine stories with a focus on continued fan engagement.

“The set-up of racing.com content and new media content is designed to deepen fan engagement through broad and free distribution. One part is to service established fans and a second, over the last 18 months, is a focus on people who are perhaps betting once a month; the person who tends to be a sports fans and may be further engaged with racing through push notifications, simple analysis and tips.”

Mr. Catterall said racing.com had several key objectives including telling the “core story”, uncovering equine and people connections, portraying the role of racing in the community, celebrating great racing moments and encouraging candid discussion.

“We create stories to appeal to non-racing people as well as fans and we create more of these stories to act as a counterweight against the bias against our sport in some sections of the broader media. We hope to build empathy with non-core racing fans.”

Ms. Aly Vance, a freelance Sports broadcaster, best known currently for her work for CNN, spoke of television remaining “the most powerful way of engaging fans”.

She focused on CNN’s acclaimed Winning Post slot, which she has presented since 2016.

“The show now has a bigger emphasis on style and travel and has been renamed CNN Winning Post An Elegant Life and the reach is broadened through cross promotion with other CNN programs,” she said.

Her CNN remit includes celebrities, raceday fashion, culture, travel, style, food, drink and betting. The channel delivers a higher audience reach than any other international news brand.

The world’s most beautiful racecourses were one of her most watched broadcasts last year, while that program also topped the list of those accessed through cnn.com, while five of the top 10 on the website concerned Royal Ascot.