Racing Victoria Chief Executive Officer Mr. Andrew Jones told the Asian Racing Conference in Melbourne on 15 February that racing has work to do to lift its audience, especially with the younger generation.
Mr. Jones said racing needed to address its fan base to keep racing relevant.
In a session dubbed ‘The Fan’, Mr. Jones said, "We have a challenge to overcome, it’s a challenge that every sport has to overcome. And I call it the insider problem. All sports are run by insiders and all sports are run by people who like the sport and that is normal and natural because you need people who are passionate about their job.”
Mr. Jones said racing needed to get past the insider problem and identify what its customers wanted, and it was the job of administrators to offer what fans want – it was not the fan’s job to like what they were offered.
“We might think we are doing a good job, but remember we are not in the top ten sports in the world, so there is work to do,” he said.
Mr. Jones said each year in Australia there were 300,000 people who turned 18-years-old and they had to be given a reason to watch, bet and engage with racing.
He challenged racing administrators and clubs to think outside the square in terms of attracting customers in today’s landscape and not to shrink from defending the sport.
“In some areas we face challenges from animal welfare activists but I would tell them that we look after horses for a living,” he said.
Mr. Jones went on to say, “we deliver massive economic contributions to the community at large and we deliver pleasure to people. It’s okay for people to have a punt. Clearly, we need to assist in terms of problem gamblers but it is okay to have a bet.”
“We also need to consider admission prices and dress codes as they may be a barrier to some fans,” Mr. Jones said.
The session was opened by Mr. Masayuki Goto, ARF Vice-Chairman and President and CEO of the Japan Racing Association, who highlighted that “Covid has changed what the fan experience looks and feels like, and racing must adapt or be left at the gates.”
Kicking off the session was Mr. Gary Liu, Co-founder and CEO of Terminal 3 and Founder and Director of Artifact Labs, who delivered an eye-opening keynote on the intersection of Gen Z behaviours, internet technologies and the challenge of attracting younger people to racing.
“There is an entire ocean of research on Gen Z and they are fundamentally different to every generation before them,” Mr Liu said. “The basic summary is that the gap is astronomical.”
Mr. Liu said that in three years Gen Z – people born between 1995 and 2010 – would surpass millennials as the largest consumer base and their behaviours are so different to older generations. He gave the audience a taste of those behaviours and the online communities Gen Z inhabit with some wonderful case studies.
Mr Liu concluded his presentation by posing three hypotheticals to the audience: imagine if wagering was powered by blockchain and tokens; imagine if a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) could own a horse; imagine if club membership was certified by NFTs. He will discuss whether those possibilities could become reality for racing during a session on Friday morning titled ‘The Shift’.
Mr. Jamie Barkley, Australian Turf Club Chief Executive Officer, spoke of the success of The Everest, especially in attracting new and youngers fans to the races.
He said, “We had a targeted strategy to win a new generation of fans and that’s been successful with 62 per cent of the audience under the age of 35.”
Mr. Tim Bulley, Managing Director and Chairman of World Horse Racing, said that while there was a vast amount of information available on the likely outcome and results of races, there was a need to offer more.
“We’ve grown a global, digital audience by looking at the sporting, personal and lifestyle stories behind the winners of international Group 1 races,” he said.