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Who Are We?

The View

Every moment of every day, businesses compete for our money. It’s become such a regular part of our lives that we don’t realize it’s happening.

When we walk down the shopping aisle, we already have preconceived notions about what products we are interested in, and what brands speak to us. Bright packaging, discounted pricing, contests and coupons all play a role in what we buy and when we buy it.

While some may be hardened against much of the marketing noise, virtually all of us have our weak points. Whether it’s the tiger on our cereal box, the swoosh on our shoes, the fruit on our computer, or the eco, fair trade logo on our recycled shopping bags, something is speaking to us.

This past Saturday, I looked at the horse racing products available to bettors in Canada. Horseplayer Interactive offered 38 race cards – 21 thoroughbred and 17 standardbred. Of those 17 tracks, nine were Canadian.

So, how did those tracks differentiate themselves from the 37 they were competing against? How did their simulcast signal look or feel different? What kind of promotions were in place to convince a horseplayer to choose them over another? What kind of social media campaigns were launched to entice the customer?

While there is a range across the industry, racetracks have never focused much attention on the critical point of sale. That is the place where the customer, now with his wallet open and ready to complete a purchase, makes his final choice. Will he bet on Aqueduct or Kawartha Downs? Will he stay for the evening card or go home after the last at Hollywood Park? Let’s face it – even the most dedicated customer will not make wagers on 38 tracks in one day.

Canadian harness racing should take solace in the fact that all of horse racing is lacking when it comes to branding products, and point of sale marketing through racetrack, teletheatre and Internet vehicles. From my experience, customers choose which tracks to bet almost purely based on feeling, instinct, familiarity, and how well they’ve done in the past.

On the plus side, from indifference comes opportunity. To continue to be relevant within the overall horse racing landscape, we need to make ourselves relevant. We need to tell customers why they should trust our brand, feel good about it, and want to make their bets on our product. Because there is such a lack of this happening across the horse racing world, it may not be as difficult as we think to sway hearts and minds.

Signals should be clean and clear. Graphics should be uncluttered and professional. Daily betting promotions, low takeouts, and carryovers should be promoted and cross promoted between non-competing tracks. Account wagering sites could have Bet Canadian days. Bets on our tracks could qualify players for cash, prizes or handicapping contests.

Perhaps we can learn from the grocery store and start treating our horse racing options like the cereal aisle. Are we dependable Cheerios? Greeaat Frosted Flakes? The smart option, Special K? Perhaps we’re the no-name brand, offered at a lower price? Whatever it is, we’d better understand it ourselves, if we have any hope of convincing our customers who we are and why they should trust us with their business.

Darryl Kaplan

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