More marketing thoughts…but this time, it’s horse racing

May 18, 2007 | Drew Forrester

I brushed over this subject a little bit today in the 8am hour, but in all fairness I never really gave the subject the attention it deserves and the attention I wanted to give it today.  We talked about the race with John Pricci, a noted horse racing expert (I’d link his work but he’s EVERYWHERE…just “google” his name and you’ll see) who, by the way, gave us the exacta for the Kentucky Derby on the air (of course, we didn’t bet it…) a couple of weeks back.

By the way, for the record, Pricci likes Street Sense (win), Hard Spun (place) and Circular Quay (show) tomorrow.

Anyway, we did talk horse racing today, but we talked more about the race and far less about the STATE of racing here in Maryland.  And that’s why I’m blogging about it now.  This is really a subject I wanted to thoroughly cover this morning and time just didn’t cooperate with me.  Yeah, we had to talk a little baseball today…

I have gone all week, literally, and discovered only TWO people that I know of who are attending the Preakness tomorrow.  Both are listeners and both (Tim and Evan) e-mailed me today during the show when I asked, “is ANYONE out there going to the race?”.

Now, I understand the place is going to be swamped tomorrow.  Upwards of 110,000 people are expected at Old Hilltop to enjoy the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown.

But WHO is going to the race?  By that, I mean what DEMOGRAPHIC of people will be there?

Based solely on my findings this week, I don’t think it’s SPORTS FANS who are going.  How else can I explain that a week of radio and e-mails went by (and I asked the question every day this week…”who’s going to the race?”) and I found only TWO people in my listening audience who admitted they’d be at Pimlico on Saturday.

I’m sure the Maryland Jockey Club doesn’t really care what demographic shows up on Saturday.  They just need people there…paying customers…men, women, black, white, young, old…it doesn’t matter WHO, but HOW MANY.

The issue at hand, though, is who is going back to the track next week and the week after and the week after that, and so on.

There’s the marketing issue.

Understand this:  Media Relations and Marketing are two different things.  By manner of full disclosure, I will admit that the MJC’s Media Relations guy is a friend of mine whom I hired to be my Media honcho when I was the GM of the Spirit soccer team.  His name is Mike Gathagan and he’s truly one of the best in the business – in any sport, anywhere.

But Mike’s job is to deal with the media…marketing the sport isn’t what he’s paid to do.

So the marketing element of this issue is simple.  Should the MJC market more towards the sports fans in the future?  Or should they take a look at their crowd this weekend at Pimlico and figure out how to get THAT GROUP back to the track?  I think we all know who makes up 75% of the audience at the Preakness…pretty women with (weather pending) a fairly large portion of their bodies unclothed and men who like to look at pretty women while they (both) drink beer.   I would assume that 75% audience figure is made up of 75% of people who are between the ages of 21-30.  Confused by those stats?  I was too the first time I wrote it…read it again, it will make sense.  75% of 75%…

The question is, how does the Maryland Jockey Club get those 21-30 year olds BACK to the track before next May?

I don’t have THE answer.  I think I have SOME answers (a few they’d probably rather not hear) on where they’ve gone wrong and where they could improve.

They’ve been selling suites and corporate tents left and right for the last six months and I’m sure they’re thrilled with the revenue that’s come in on what MUST be their absolute life-blood.  I don’t know the real numbers, but I’m betting they do 70% of their yearly revenue on Preakness Saturday.  It could be more like 80% or 90%, in fact.

But while they’re busy selling tents and sponsorships and opening their infield to scantily clad girls who attract the eager, betting boys, I’m wondering if they’re paying ANY attention at all on how to get those people to come back sooner rather than later?

How about a quick, 1-minute survey in the infield (before noon…by noon, everyone is far too “happy” to worry about answering any questions about their attendance habits) of 1,000 people on Saturday morning?  That would be an excellent way to gather information on why they showed up today and what might get them back next month.  Give them something free (like free admission to Pimlico and Laurel for 6 months) in exchange for their honest, thoughtful answers.  1,000 people is a HUGE survey.  They’d learn a lot about their customers’ attendance habits if they could pull that one off.

If you’re going Saturday, have fun.  Be safe.  And for the record, I’ll play the Exchanger/Hard Spun exacta.