Why is it so expensive to attend an NFL game? Well, we have to pay for these multi-million dollar contracts for these ungrateful players. We also have to pay for these lavish stadiums. And when you think about it, we pay for them over and over again, with some tax dollars going to keep these teams in our local cities. Add that to the cost of tickets, and it’s just plain ridiculous.
The NBA is just a joke. They’ve totally hit the denial stage. We’re sitting here talking about a lock-out, and again over money, when 22 teams lost money last year.
Over 300 million dollars was lost by NBA teams in the 2010-2011 season. Just think how much would have been lost if LeBron James would have stayed in Cleveland. People wanted to go and root against the Heat because they disliked James so much. Those seats wouldn’t have been sold otherwise.
Bottom line is fans are leaving these major sports because of cost, and the prima donna attitude of our players.
How does this affect horse racing? Unfortunately, long gone are the days when Belmont Park out drew the Yankees in attendance, as they often did in the 40’s. But, do I think our sport is dying? No, we have a great product. We just do an awful job of marketing our product. Now is great time to lure these fans into the “Sport Of Kings,” where the average fan can spend a day at the track without spending a fortune, and sometimes, if educated, can leave the track with more money than he or she came with.
I’ve asked a few friends of mine to comment on this subject. I wanted ideas on how we can better our sport and lure these great sport fans into horse racing. We’ll be looking for ideas through the eyes of a trainer, an avid gambler/writer, two amazing turf writers, and a true fan (Fan of the year, in fact.)
Derek Simon works for Twinspires.com. Derek writes a weekly column for the website and also does a weekly podcast. He is well known as a handicapping guru, and is highly respected in our sport.
To me, racing absolutely, positively must reach out to sports bettors. The lesson from poker should be that gambling, when packaged the proper way, sells. Yet racing has always catered to sports fans. I say rather than market the Sport of Kings as a sport — as has always been the case — market it as a game.
Contrary to popular opinion, I think it's the bettors that have left horse racing, not sports fans. In any event, I think the sporting side of the game is a harder sell.
Brian Zipse is an incredible writer, and a true fan. He writes his Zipse At The Track blog for this very site. Brian is also respected in the horse racing industry. He’s a true ambassador of the sport.
I would like to see racing improve in four areas: 1) Racing information needs to be more accessible to the consumer. This would make it more attractive to the gambler, as well as, the fan who wants to find out as much about their favorites as possible. 2) As the world becomes a better place though greater interest in animal welfare, racing needs to take every single step in the improvement of the safety and well-being of the horses, both during their racing career and after. 3) Contraction - There are simply too many races, and too many tracks today to standardize a high level of quality for the consumer. 4) Television - racing can never compete with other sports without a strong presence on the boob tube. Obviously, I am encouraged by the recent deals between NBC/Versus with Saratoga and Keeneland.
Don Chatlos has been a prominent trainer in California for years now. Don is an avid sports fan. His love for the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks, and Bears is evident to anyone who has seen Don’s Facebook page. He is well-known for his training of Singletary, named, of course, after former Bears great Mike Singletary. Singletary, the horse, won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in epic fashion.
Reach out to college campuses and get the fraternities and sororities to compete in some kind of gambling contest, giveaway free passes on their website with some kind of ticket to print out, advertising a raffle and the winning number gets a free lunch or any kind of give-away .I’m thinking in LA terms because we have USC and UCLA literally 5 miles from Hollywood Park and 15 or 20 minutes from Santa Anita. Tracks here in California should be sending their marketing people to Las Vegas during the off season to see what they can pick up from the gambling capital of the US. It seems like, at times, they are not even trying. The old guard needs to be moved out.
Tim Reynolds is a dear friend of mind, and one of the biggest horse racing fans I’ve ever met. His love for the horse, and the horse alone, is the reason Tim participates in this sport. Gambling is secondary to him.
Tracks around the country need to offer either free admission or a very cheap price for general admission. The die-hard fans don’t care if they are in a box, or in luxury suites. They want to be around the paddock and the apron so free/cheap admission is an easy draw for them. What about the everyday family, or the group of friends looking for something to do on a weekend? This is where some tracks fail miserably. Offer special days with free admission, free programs, $1 food or drink specials. Don’t make them break the bank before they even get to the betting window.
I remember several years ago Churchill offering family type days with bands in the infield, games for kids, and other family friendly activities. Some tracks do ok in this department, but it should be a given at ANY track to get on track attendance up. Look at the recent success with night racing at Churchill Downs. These nights consistently have beaten on track attendance for big days at CD like Foster and Clark day. If you offer a good product, even if they aren’t “horse fans” they will show up…and spend money. Guaranteed money for alcohol and food sales, but they will also bet money that the track would have never seen in on track handle.
For sports fans in general, who do like luxury, offer more competitive rewards similar to what casinos are offering. Don’t keep this just to the high rollers or die hard gamblers. Give reason to entice the moderate gamblers who regularly visit casinos. Comps work wonders! Here in Louisville, you can go to the casino across the bridge any time and it’s packed. Find offers and incentives to draw some of that crowd away from time to time.
More fan giveaways. Most of the diehards love the horse first, bobble-heads!!! Posters!!!! T shirts!!!! Give people a reason to show up at the track!!!
Joe DePaolo, as mentioned earlier, is part of the HRN Fraternity. He writes an incredible blog on New York racing, He also writes and records podcasts for the Breeders' Cup, which can be found at thebreederscupclassic.com. Joe also serves as a twice-weekly correspondent on "The Fast Track with Steve Bortstein," which airs on Fox Sports afilliate KCQL, AM 1340 New Mexico.
A lot of racing's problems can be tied to really poor marketing. I've never been able to figure out why the sport isn't more popular than it is. People love animals. People love puzzles. People love to spend time outdoors. And people love to gamble, especially on games that involve skill, like poker. The marketers of this sport absolutely must do a better job of reminding people that racing is the only game that offers all of these things.