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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Marketing the Prix d'Amérique

In the United States, when there are big races being contested any television marketing usually features commericals where the amount of the race purse is featured prominently (i.e., "Come See the $1.5 million Hambletonian"), which suggests the purse of the race is what makes the race special.  The tradition of the race is typically ignored.  We also tend to tell people to come out for their free 'gift', the giveaway item.  Is the focus on money the only way to get attention?  I would suggest not.  When there is marketing of races like the thoroughbred Triple Crown, they are marketed on their tradition as well as being great wagering events (and admittedly in some local outlets as party venues).

How do the French market the Prix d'Amérique and how is it different from American marketing of harness races?

Here are the first two commercials I have seen for this year's Prix d'Amérique.  The first commercial is all about Ready Cash, a horse going for his third consecutive victory in this race.  The Prix is not even mentioned until the very last frames of the commercial.  Clearly he is the star of the show as a victory here would put Ready Cash in the books as one of the greatest in European trotting and they are taking advantage of it.

This commerical would suggest Jeff Gural's argument that we need stars to market is correct.

The second commerical features sponsor Terre de Légende, an alcohol producer (whiskey, champagne).  They take over sponsorship of the race for the first time this year.  This commercial features the race prominently in it, but note it doesn't even list the date of the race.  Clearly, it is known that the Grand Prix d'Amérique is contested on the final Sunday of January.

This commerical shows the advantage of having a well known sponsor.  Notice in this commerical there is no mention of what the sponsor sells.  The race is big enough and for the sponsor, being associated with the event is sufficient enough.  For racing, having a big enough sponsor ensures the commercial gets shown on the airwaves often. 

I'm not suggesting we eliminate freebies on big race days, but I can't help but wonder if American standardbred races would get a better reception if we were able to advertise them as they advertise the Prix?  Of course the key is to get sponsorships.

Didn't I say in my last blog entry that some tracks should look at racing purely as a gambling event? Absolutely, but there are exceptions. There are certain races which call out not only to be discussed as gambling events, but as big events to get the public (your potential customers) interested in racing. The problem with racing is we try to treat each week's Open event as a big thing; it isn't. I would suggest at most tracks there are less than three events a year on their racing calendar deserving of the big race treatment in local marketing.  On a national level (United States only), I would suggest the Hambletonian, Meadowlands Pace, and Breeders Crown are worthy of the big race treatment.

But what about the race?

The prep races for the Grand Prix d'Amérique have almost been completed with three of the four 'B' races (Prix de Bretagne, Bourbonnais, Bourgogne) in the books with the Prix de Belgique scheduled for January 13. The Prix Tenor de Baune, a race for six year olds is the final prep race and is to be contested on January 15. After the Tenor de Baune, the final field for the Prix will be determined.  So far, the horses who have earned their way into the Prix d'Amerique are Main Wise As, Ready Cash, Roxanne Griff, Royal Dream, Texas Charm, The Best Madrik, and Timoko.

For those interested, the Prix d'Amérique will be contested on Sunday, January 27 at the Hippodrome de Vincennes in Paris, France at approximately 10:30am (EST).  Traditionally, wagering on the race is available on certain ADWs and local tracks.  You need to check with your ADW or track to see if they are offering wagering on the event.

I also believe in American trotting circles we are missing the opportunity to use the Prix d'Amérique not only as a marketing event for trotting, but as a money making event.  There is no reason why a national betting pool could not be created and racetracks could not offer the entire last week of January advance wagering on the race.  Granted in the continental United States the race will be contested between 7:30-10:30 in the morning on a Sunday but there is no reason why the race can't be shown live on a website and afterwards shown as a replay.  Those locations who wish to offer full or partial card wagering would be free to do so on the morning of the event; otherwise, they would only offer advance wagering on the big race. 

Admittedly, past performance information is spotty but with cooperation from French trotting officials, I am sure a reasonable program page could be put together for the American audience (even if it was similar to a line from Australia or New Zealand.  All that is needed is some pre-planning. 

Amen Brother.  Jay Bergman of the DRF rips the industry for kicking the can down the road.  Basically, he is saying the same thing many of us have been saying.  Will the industry change?  It should.

The New York Racing Fan Advisory Council has issued their first report.  While it is a good first effort, I do find it troubling that upstate tracks were not visited by the Council to get the concerns of fans in those areas.  The report only mentions Finger Lakes in passing and there is no mention of Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Saratoga Raceway, Tioga Downs, or Vernon Downs.  The concerns of the upstate gambler may be different from the downstate customer and they are not being heard.  I realize NYRA and Yonkers are the biggest tracks in the state and contribute the most to the economy but the other tracks also have fans and contribute to the New York economy.  NYRFAC members must make a commitment to visit the upstate tracks in 2013; certainly before releasing another report..


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