Data Doesn't Lie

If data doesn’t lie, then the marketing and promotion of harness racing is the greatest crisis facing our industry. Of the 306 individuals that graded the marketing and promotional efforts of horse racing in their province, only one person rated the efforts an A+ while 89 responded with an F. Overall, the category earned a D+, down from a C+ in 2005.

It doesn’t take a corporate executive to predict the future of a business where less than one-third of one percent of stakeholders (.003) consider their marketing and promotional efforts extraordinary, and where 29% rate it a complete failure.

Having spent much of last summer helping to lead a charge to get Ontario’s horsepeople to dedicate five per cent of their earnings to the development, marketing and promotion of their sport, I can tell you first hand that stakeholders are not happy with how the game is marketed. From the way customers experience the sport, to the betting aspect, to the general brand of harness racing, to its overall exposure, the sport is faltering.

With the Racing Development and Sustainability Plan, the idea was for horsepeople to invest in their own business the way that the Dairy and Beef Farmers do of theirs. They were to set aside funding, hire the appropriate personnel, develop a plan and drive the industry toward self sustainability. Despite what I consider to be a remarkable achievement of having around 20% of the Ontario-based purse pool signed on to support the plan, others decided the brakes were the best approach.

The Board of the Ontario Racing Commission, despite learning about the level of support, decided they would be willing to hear a proposal only once all four horsemen’s groups in the province were behind it.

Over a period of a few months, I heard an overwhelming desire to do something, including many people who put their names and money behind the plan. While I listened to some who believed the RDSP was ill conceived, I virtually never heard the sentiment that the status quo is acceptable.

Today, I remain hopeful. I’m hopeful that the same people who are upset with the Meadowlands tellers union for not seeing the big picture soon start seeing the big picture themselves. I’m hopeful that there is a well-funded, multi-pronged approach for growing the sport, and it’s on its way. I’m hopeful that the hundreds who put their necks on the line in Ontario for the RDSP, and the thousands across Canada who support growth in the sport begin to see leadership from their leaders.

It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Any group or organization that drives a major initiative to rejuvenate the sport deserves credit. As long as there is a clear vision that includes sustainable funding, planning and professional execution, harness racing will have a fighting chance. One off ideas and promotions are good, but what is required is a co-ordinated initiative that focuses on every aspect of harness racing from outreach, to the wagering offerings, pricing and technology, to on track atmosphere and the cleanliness of each facility.

The fans and bettors are speaking with their wallets. Thousands of stakeholders are expressing themselves loud and clear. Will their leaders hear the call and take action?

Darryl Kaplan
[email protected]

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