Attacking the bookends: Remember the humans

by | Oct 28, 2016 | Breaking, Business, Opinion, Regionwide, Top Stories | 2 comments

In his series “Attacking the bookends,” venture capitalist TK Kuegler brings that mindset to the racing industry, turning an analytical eye on what the industry can — and should — do to grow its business.

by T. K. Kuegler

For those of us that love the racing world, we are enamored with the four-legged athletes that perform majestically. We love seeing the horses fly around the oval at speeds that seem to defy logic.

But from an entertainment point of view, audiences love to connect with humans. We like to understand the personalities and features of our athletes. We want to connect with them as we root for them. While we love our horse athletes in this sport, we want to make sure we don’t lose sight that the humans (i.e. jockeys and trainers) may actually be our most valuable asset as we attract new fans and increase the handle.

Here are a few creative ways to make this human connection happen:

On race day, broadcast profiles and interviews between races

There is a lot of downtime between races for a novice fan. Use this time to allow them to get to know the people involved in the business. Don’t make these segments about the racing. Use them to show and demonstrate the personalities of the people. Make them fun and entertaining.

Make sure the humans are everywhere in the marketing avenues of the sport

The modern world is driven by all forms of social media. We need to get jockeys and trainers to be active participants on social media. Encourage them to understand the best techniques and processes for using these tools. Offer workshops and training sessions run by industry experts so trainers and jockeys can understand how to leverage these tools and connect with fans.

Create fantasy leagues for jockeys and trainers

Fantasy sports is huge business. People love the daily fantasy sports that are driven by FanDuel and DraftKings. If we create leagues around jockeys’ and trainers’ performances, it will create new interest in the sport from a whole new audience. And if done correctly, it could create a new revenue source to supplement the handle.

Make sure trainers and jockeys are available to the fans during race days

The average sports fan has almost no chance of spending any time with most players and coaches in professional sports. But given the nature of how racing happens, there is plenty of time and opportunity for trainers to meet and greet with the crowd. This type of activity should be encouraged.

Reward the jockeys who attract the most bets

I am 100 percent certain that many people would bet on a jockey in a race if they got to know that jockey through the efforts listed above. Well, let’s reward the jockeys that do this the best. Carve out part of the handle and create bonus programs for the jockeys that get the most money bet on them in a meet. Reward them for being a fan favorite, and you can create a self-perpetuating positive situation.

Americans love their sports heroes, and while we in racing often advocate for our horse stars, we may actually get more benefit from the connection that comes when a fandom can identify and empathize with the humans in our game. Let our fans get to know the people involved, and they will be much quicker to open up their wallets when they head to the window.

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