Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Courtesy of Patrick Patten

Whether I was listed as being there or not (Esther what did I say for you to forget me? ;-D ), I was in fact at the NTRA annual marketing meeting.  A group of fans put together what we believe to be an easy first step (NTRA marketing report) in helping our sport become viable in today's "connected" world.  I've spent the last week writing about my experiences, and mostly gushing over how great it was.  It's been said I'm now in the NTRA pocket, and I can't disagree too much.  I was bowled over with their enthusiasm and interest.  If it was an act, there aren't enough Oscars to go around, and if it isn't, well one weekend isn't the end of this story. 

Alex wants us to hold the industry's feet to the fire.  So, I wanted to list here, specifically, what I'll be looking for and (when). 

The best idea that came from the package was the idea for a VP position for online/offline marketing.  I know this is the best idea, because so many other forums from the weekend could have been helped by a person we described.  If, as John Della Volpe said, "the smartest people are outside your company" then it flows, there should be someone in the company watching that all the time.  Tracks are singularly attacking some of the issues that face the sport on a national level: after racing care, take-out, and safety, safety, safety.  Our group hopes that what being done at the grass roots level can be brought up to the national level with more observation and a point person to motivate things.  I'd like to see a VP position by Feb 1st.

"Take Back Saturday" was our rallying-cry to the industry to do more to make Saturday must see viewing.  It is a first step in changing the image of our sport.  One of the easier changes we hope to see in the new year is "Charity-capping."  Pair up Hank Goldberg with a celebrity at the track, give them real money, and have them wager.  The largest bankroll at the end gets both bankrolls and a check from the NTRA.  The camera needs to be over the shoulder as both parties make their wagers.  Furthermore, we'll be looking for tracks tying in their online/offline communities to coordinate an event for the winning charity that could air on TV weeks later.  Charity Capping I'd like to see in the new ESPN shows NEXT YEAR.

"Take Back Saturday" also means a retooling of "Win and You're In" which is creating small islands of races, but little continuity to bring people back.  For example, Presious Passion ran this weekend, but he was already in the BC Turf.  What did this race mean for him?  Isn't Einstein our American star this year?  We're proponents of standings to affect gate choice or create year end bonuses.  We're not in favor of the NTRA taking over or telling tracks what to do; we're just for getting everyone to relate the meaning of all the stakes races.  With the additional categories the NTRA can also act quicker to create context than others.  I'd like to see an announcement to get members to weigh the stakes after this year's BC and before the Eclipse awards. 

I need schwag.  The merchandise needs to change.  We all agree that the stars of the industry are the horses, and yet when you show up to the big days of racing much of what is on sale has the track name or the event name; much of which is 50% off the next day.  If horses are the stars, then the owners are our teams.  I'm hoping phone calls are being made right now to the Phipps', Reddam's, Overbrook's, Ramsey's, and other camps with famous silks.  I want t-shirts, golf shirts, mugs, hats as soon as possible.

I left the easiest thing for last.  It's easy because it's already happening.  Include us fans more.  Our ideas are sometimes out-there; unencumbered by laws and budgets, but given the right setting we can produce concrete analysis and suggestions, and think outside the box. 

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