The plenary sessions of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul were introduced today with an outline of the conference’s business programme and an examination of racing through the “Asian Century,” focusing on consumer demographics and the opportunities presented by Asia’s rapid economic growth.
Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, outlined the week’s agenda and reaffirmed that much of the focus would be on racing’s need to engage with the modern consumer.
“To set the stage, over the next three days we will hear from 50 accomplished speakers and industry experts across 12 individual plenary sessions covering a variety of issues. Key among them will be recognising that the modern consumer demands a multi-sensory experience and that technology and innovation will play a massive role in an ever changing landscape,” he said.
Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges introduced Mr Bernard Salt, founder of The Demographics Group (Australia) and expert on social, consumer, generational and demographic trends world-wide, who told the conference of the global trends which underpin the rise of consumer spending in Asia and around the globe, outlining the demographic trends which could stimulate horse racing in growth markets.
“I have a proposition,” Mr Salt challenged. “Asia is the fastest growing wealth-generating region in the world and, now, throughout history. Asia’s spending patterns are changing with a focus on leisure and entertainment and the (racing) industry needs to grab this opportunity with both hands.”
The core of Mr Salt’s presentation was that rising prosperity, new individual freedoms and corporate success is driving demand for leisure and sporting activities across the emerging and established markets of Asia and beyond. Mr Salt argued that a new generation of millennials are motivated to showcase their professional success via activities including horse racing and that, at the other end of the spectrum, increased average life expectancy has baby boomers altering their spending patterns.
Mr Salt noted that China, Japan, India, Australia and host nation South Korea are projected to be in the world’s top 12 nations based on GDP by 2028 and economic growth and maturity drives consumer spending.
The key factor for horse racing, according to Mr Salt, is that Asia’s growing middle class will demand leisure and entertainment products which promote self-esteem, and cited a recent study demonstrating that luxury spending is on the rise in Asia.
“Rising prosperity delivers more leisure time and discretionary spending with an emphasis on products which are ‘taggable’ via social media and the new generation of millennials demand 24/7 screen engagement with tailored products that enhances their brand and self-esteem.”
Mr Salt drew the link between prosperity and sporting success with China, Japan and South Korea in the top 10 in the gold medal count at the Rio Olympics of 2016, while only host nation South Korea managed a top 10 spot nearly three decades earlier when the Olympics were held in Seoul.
Despite competition from other leisure activities, Mr Salt said that horse racing can fill a niche for aspirational customers looking for a premium experience given that it is male and female inclusive; offers a premium fashion and dining experience and corporate entertainment.
“Racing’s opportunity centres on capturing the growing middle classes if it can improve global broadcasting and embrace and develop technology-enhanced experiences. Consumers are spending less on standard entertainment and more on tailored experiences with sports lessons leading the way.
“Horse racing can capitalise on the consumer view that it is a marquee symbol of economic and personal success and that the growing corporate culture through Asia presents the opportunity to sell racing to sponsors and potential owners as a premium leisure experience.”
Issued on behalf of the Asian Racing Federation