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IFHA Told Racing Must "Understand Customer Needs"

Friday, 7th October 2011

In France, Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges opened a discussion on the “Future Challenges Of Racing” at the 45th conference of the International Federation Of Horseracing Authorities in Paris by emphasising the importance of “understanding the racing customer’s needs”. He explained how the HKJC has already undertaken “a comprehensive study to better understand customers’ behaviour & needs” & declared: “We need to customise our product & service offerings by customer segments, so as to make racing more relevant & more competitive.” US Jockey Club president Jim Gagliano outlined “proactive measures” his club will undertake “after unveiling a comprehensive economic study titled Building Sustainable Growth For Thoroughbred Racing & Breeding’. He noted America “is losing fans at a rate of 4% a year & by 2020, at this rate, the fan base will only be 64% of the 2010 figure”. Engelbrecht-Bresges commented: “You will agree therefore that 'standing still' is not an option. A clear message from the 2 studies is that racing must be more outside-in than inside-out, when examining our issues & future options.” Gagliano highlighted several factors “including increased competition, brand perception & poor amenities” which had led to a decrease in 6 major racing economic indicators in the period 2005-2010. He added: “Importantly we have identified 9 key initiatives which we believe can reverse those negative trends. We have already made significant & tangible progress on several of the initiatives, including an agreement in principle with a major network to televise a series of races in the spring that leads to the Triple Crown.” Howard Wright (from UK Racing Post) & Stephen Moran (from Best Bets Australia) both called on the industry world-wide “to establish better relationships with the key personnel in mainstream media organisations to ensure that racing had coverage beyond the sports pages & could pursue greater free-to-air television exposure”. Moran called on turf authorities to “re-invent how racing is presented: to re-engage the customers who are attracted to the track on major race-days & to re-establish racing in the mainstream psyche of ‘the man in the street’ via the major newspapers & television”. Wright also emphasised the need to make “new media” work for racing. And Steven Crist (editor of US Daily Racing Form) argued “virtually every aspect of our sport can be improved by a more customer-centric approach” with a “focus on the racing product, the wagering experience & horse welfare”. Engelbrecht-Bresges summarised the theme of the discussions: “Racing would with a more outside-in perspective be better able to truly understand & differentiate our customers & be better able to create offerings that attract, retain & grow them.”

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