NASCAR started their 2011 season this weekend at Daytona (yep, there's a little red neck in me) and being Danica Patrick is on the Nationwide Circuit, I went to her website today to see if there was a story about her NASCAR career best fourteenth place finish yesterday. While I didn't see an article about yesterday's race on her website, it did have a link to her Go Daddy commercials. After seeing her Super Bowl commercial (the version not shown at the Super Bowl), I looked at other Go Daddy commercials and I find myself asking one question.
Why do American harness racing commercials stink? You have basically the following types, using the Meadowlands as an example (any track could fall into this category):
"Come out to the Meadowlands for the $1 million Meadowlands Pace " - Attracts the same people who follow big races and after this race, you won't seem them until the Hambletonian. After the Hambo, you will see them next Meadowlands Pace Day. Sort of like those who go to Church on Easter and Christmas.
"Come out to the Meadowlands for the $1.5 million Hambletonian and receive a free t-shirt with a paid admission". - You get the same people who come to the big races and those people looking for a free t-shirt, amazingly many of them keep going back out and back in to get another t-shirt. (Maybe selling them on E-bay?). After that day, you'll see them at the next giveaway.
"Come to the Meadowlands on January 7 for opening night of the 2011 harness meet" (assuming they had ran a commercial). - The hard core gambler that shows up every night remembers its time to go to the track, or more likely time to make sure they have enough money in their ADW account by then..
These commerical do nothing to attract new people to the track. At best, you may get some of the horseplayers who haven't been there in ages to come back for a big race. Otherwise, you attract the people who come for the promotion who you won't see until the next giveaway. What we are doing is running the same commercials we have run in the 1970's. They haven't worked in the last twenty years but we keep running them still, if at all.
Now the folks at TrackPackPA.com, keep coming up with the best commercials I have seen in the United States in a long time. The last one I saw, the Horseshoe Giveaway used humor in an attempt to get people to the track. This time, I think they hit gold.
Granted, this commercial talks about both breeds of racing, but the key is racing is an afterthought. They are selling entertainment and friendship. You are not going to get people to come out to the track just for a night at the races anymore. Sell them a place to have a great time where they may incidentally make money works; it is part of the current realization that racetracks need to be entertainment centers. Of course, your local track needs to be able to live up to the promises in the commercial before you air such a commerical; otherwise you will lose the potential customer the first time they show up..
Now if we can get a commercial like this for harness racing only which can be used by local tracks, we can launch an advertising campaign that may be worthwhile.
Finally, Maharajah picked up the win in Paris this year with a win in the Prix de Paris in a mile rate of 2:01.4 for the 2 5/8 miles contest, the final leg of the French Triple Crown..
Of course, this week with Ready Cash not racing as he was tending to stallion duties, Maharajah was the heavy favorite. I must confess, I like the vault starts; it takes the post position advantage out of the equation as the starter determines when the field is sent on their way, and there is no guarantee where the horses will be lined up when the word to 'go' is given.
With any luck, we will see Maharajah in North America this summer. That would be an interesting test against North America's best trotters.