How well does racing know it customer?

How well does racing know it customer?

How well does racing know its customer?

Rhetorical question! It, like the current Victorian strategy via racing.com strategy is to seemingly tell us first what we want rather than dealing meaningfully with their and more broadly the industry’s customer.

But not just in Victoria. When has any comprehensive survey been done of all of racing’s “customers” or punters or fans to get to know them and what preferences are and then armed with that knowledge to craft a better public delivery of all things racing via all platforms.

Again the answer is rhetorical. I’ve been involved in racing all my working life, would never presume to know the customer more than I am one myself, but cannot recall one all of industry survey and understand the results  for the betterment moving forward with a clearer vision. Other than it needs one.

The reason I ask is simple.

Last weekend I went to watch the Melbourne Storm (crowd 15,000 plus) at AAMI Stadium on Saturday evening where they proved their minor and major premiership credentials and on Sunday went to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch (with 70,000 others) the Richmond Tigers cement a place in the AFL top 4 beating St Kilda.

As much as I was there as a fan of both teams and games, I wanted to absorb the fan experience and see if racing was doing anything of the same and what it could learn from them.

So the Storm thrashed the Rabbitohs but it was an after match experience for their members that stood out for me.

Within half an hour their superstar Cooper Cronk and rising star Cameron Munster were in the Storm member’s area sharing their game thoughts and future ideas and general insight into the game and the Storm.

Countless interactive photo opportunities and signatures with the fans – young and old – were provided and after about 15 minutes all were satisfied and warmed by the engagement.

The kids couldn’t get enough, the parents or fans craved the chance to mingle.

Sure racing’s human stars are always giving of their time but how is this managed and by who and with what strategic goal?

Would a members or public fan fest after the last with the star or stars of the day be available to share experiences, sign autographs, tell tales be a value add to the club and as importantly to the sport and the participants themselves? Of course!

The closer the fans – punters – can get to the stars the better. Understanding of the long days jockeys and trainers endure on a Saturday to complete their work schedule, some negotiation to suit all would be best offered and tinkered with.

But for relevance and trying something different, it is worth exploring. It works for the Storm and their fans in the most engaging of way. I know from previous experience (the four year-old bailed out early) – Richmond players do the same for their members back at Punt Road after game events.

Going to the MCG on Sunday was more tribal, as the AFL is. The roaring and rising Tigers were taking on the growing Saints. But again it was the post-match that interested me most.

Taking a four-year-old wasn’t anywhere near the issue I thought it might be. Not because our Tigers won but because of the whole of event experience.

And that includes a comprehensive survey sent after logging on to the MCG Wi-Fi at the game.

And this is where racing can learn sharply how best to understand its customer and use such information as relevant research to shape a future.

Race clubs – in Melbourne – have surely improved their Wi-Fi experience but are they capturing the data of customers? The VRC (Flemington) Wi-Fi will block any wagering operator other than Tabcorp – customers of racing but not Flemington’s major partner.

The email to my registered MCG Wi-Fi email address said: “We want our fans to have the best possible experience at our games so would love your feedback.”
So here is some of what the AFL wanted to know of me as one of 70,000 on the day and I was happy to provide the feedback.

  • Did I personally attend the game: Yes
  • What was the main reason for doing so: Tigers fan
  • How did I get there: Train
  • Who did I attend with: Child under 6
  • To what extent did such things as kick to kick after the match/Free kids playground with footy activity have on that decision: Miniscule (ratings asked for)
  • Tell us your experiences re getting/entering/qualities of/family friend atmosphere of the stadium and the Wi-Fi access (average7-8)
  • Tell us about the match itself and entertainment at the game with a raft of ratings queries from terrible to outstanding (average 7-8)
  • Tell us your thoughts re the food and beverage offerings and value etc (average 7-8)
  • Tell us about the venue staff on the day again with options and ratings for a variety of involvements. (Average 7-9)
  • Then my views on the price of ticket, ease of buying it, total price of attending, game scheduling (average 8-9)
  • Would I attend again, what’s my household that takes me to the footy game like, the demographics basically. (average 8-9)

I felt better actually filling the on-line survey in, not because the AFL does this every week with its customers, but thinking why isn’t racing doing such, not at an individual club level, but as a whole of big industry opportunity.

And if they are, it can’t be sporadic, the Richmond fan experience may be different to a St Kilda fan experience, but those putting on the show will know what that is from such a weekly survey.

Racing fans need to get closer and engaged with their stars. That’s a personal opinion. Surely it’s a wagering sport but its growth can be and must be driven by the best of its people.

The ABC runs a show called “The House” hosted by Annabel Crabb and her personal engagement with politicians and parliaments takes the viewer inside politics to break down the barriers and give us as voters (viewers) a terrific engagement.

Racing needs such shows similar – just to break down the entry factor – but it needs the right people with some engagement with the players rather than the bland cardboard cut-out familiar faces, familiar only to themselves- to achieve this.

The current presentation (in Victoria) borders on the bland and beige and is incapable of engaging with the game’s stars, diverting to a boring template of fatuous questioning rather than taking us places as fans we can’t go and to people we can’t really meet but should be able to that would make the sport so much more engaging than telling is insight is nothing more than answering a boring question.

Then racing.com this week rolls out self-promoting “promos” with trainers and jockeys self-serving the industry’s message – ignoring many of the real concerns at the same time – rather than really dig into its fans and customers to deliver something more colourful than beige.

Other sports are doing it well and better. Racing needs to learn from them. And with that racing can benefit as a sport, as an industry for its fans and customers. And what’s wrong with that. The time for navel gazing self-serving approval with its own perceive gratuity is long gone. As is racing’s mainstream importance.

By Bruce Clark