The Hoarse Whisperer
by Jenny Ortuoste
for 2 May 2007, Wednesday, BusinessWorld
Aggressive Marketing for Racing
For the past several years, horseracing revenues have gone into a decline and for the first time in more than a decade, slumped to negative figures last year. While the industry earns gross sales of almost P9 billion, with about P1.2 billion going to the government as taxes on the average since the past four years, the prospect for an immediate bounce-back, much less an expansion, remains grim.
Insiders and racing fans have analyzed the industry to death; after all the spirited discussion and debates over sizzling pulutan and ice-cold beer at their favorite OTBs (off-track betting stations), one proposed solution emerges as the most common answer –aggressive marketing campaigns.
Many horseowners see marketing as the sole responsibility of the racing clubs (Manila Jockey Club or MJC and Philippine Racing Club or PRC). The Clubs believe that horseowners’ groups and the Philracom (Philippine Racing Commission) should help out. The Philracom wants the Clubs to step up their efforts in coordination with other interested groups.
In reality, what is happening is that the people who are interested enough, or are passionate and responsible enough, from whatever sector of the industry they may be from, are the ones who are actually accomplishing anything.
The Clubs have their own sponsored events, usually linked to the diplomatic world. MJC has the Philippine-Japan Racing Festival in July and has also hosted the Saudi-Arabian Cup and the Inter-Parliamentary Union Cup. PRC hosts yearly the Australia Cup and the British Cup, among others. But despite their best efforts, they find it impossible to get long-term corporate sponsors.
Horseowners’ groups have their own annual racing festivals – the MARHO (Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners) with their classic Breeders’ Cup, Klub Don Juan’s Don Juan Derby, and Philtobo (Philippine Thoroughbred Owners’ and Breeders’ Organization) with their Philtobo Mitra Cup.
Even small bayang karerista (racing fans) groups such as phf.com.ph, Pinoy H-Racing, Bayang Karerista Inc. and Manila Horsepower have done their share for the industry by putting up sponsored races of their own.
What else can be done? Modern marketing techniques and the latest technological advances can help make the sport more visible to those in the mainstream.
First, the broadcast coverage and Internet websites for both tracks, the public faces of the races, should be vastly improved, with state-of-the-art production and more professional hosting. Have the live races available on 3G as well. Advertising, especially out-of-home media such as billboards, are a wise investment.
Next, MJC should roll out its text (SMS) and online (Internet) wagering systems that have been in the works for four years. PRC can partner with them. This technology has the potential of skyrocketing revenue and offsetting weak weekday sales due to poor racetrack and OTB attendance. Optimistic industry analyses estimate that industry gross earnings will triple once these services are made available to the general public.
Other technological advances that can benefit racing include simulcasting, a technology which allows local races to be beamed abroad and vice-versa, generating income in dollars.
Untapped markets should also be addressed. In terms of demographics, possible targets are the upper segments of society, women (who make up slightly more than half of the Philippine workforce), young urban professionals, and tourists. In terms of location, huge areas in Luzon and the entire Visayas and Mindanao remain unserviced. ***