The horseracing industry has been urged to embrace new technology in a bid to attract Generation Z to a sport which has an ageing customer base.
The 39th Asian Racing Conference held in Melbourne was told on February 17 of the importance of following the lead of other sports and businesses, both in Australia and around the word, to adopt new technology preferred by younger generations.
Delegates from 35 countries attended the opening session on the final day of the conference which was titled ‘The Shift’, exploring the new-age technology more sports are engaging with, including Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and Web 3.
Artifact Labs Founder and Director, and Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Terminal 3, Mr. Gary Liu explained the machinations of blockchain, NFTs and Web 3 and the need for racing to adopt it in order to attract and serve Gen Z.
“I am increasingly excited about the opportunities for horseracing in this new world,” he said.
“We all have plenty of Gen Z that work with us that actually understand what this new world looks like through their own eyes and we really need to invest more time in understanding."
“This is technology that empowers what is already native, organic and inherent Gen Z behaviour and expectations. This is not a technology that we are trying to convince the next generation to adopt, but rather one that empowers the behaviours they already have and the way they already expect to live.”
Mr. Liu said digital asset ownership introduces new business models and opportunities across many industries and users expect to be stakeholders in their chosen digital communities, creating new models for engagement and influence.
Mr Liu, who also addressed the conference during ‘The Fan’ session on 15 February, said the metaverse provides new opportunities for compelling user experiences and therefore for branding and marketing.
He urged racing organisations to innovate with new technology, but not just because it was new and to be seen as an innovator in the industry.
“Do it because you really believe,” Mr Liu said. “(Show that) you have actually looked into and understood that next generation and believe their natural and inherent behaviour is going to require this type of technology and if you come to that conclusion, start experimenting.”
Cricket Australia (CA) Senior Commercial Strategy Manager, Ms. Joan Norton, spoke about the development of CA’s NFT collection program called CricRush where fans collect digital cards of their favourite players, which they can trade and receive rewards such as game day experiences.
Ms. Norton urged racing to “lean in” to new technology.
“It doesn’t have to be a massive, perfect, huge project that gets launched with hundreds of thousands of NFTs,” she said. “But you can test and learn and build and grow.
“We don’t have that market fit yet in Australia but we are going to keep working on it and keep testing.”
Ms. Lisa Fitzgerald, corporate partner at law firm Lander and Rogers, spoke of the regulatory challenges facing the new technology.
“Just do it right,” she said. “The success stories we have heard about today, they have done it right and have the legal framework in place.”
“They have got the correct clearance where they needed to.”