Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, called for the creation of a global brand for racing and examination of the challenges and opportunities associated therewith at the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul.
“What is the global brand of racing and how can we ensure that brand is well received across an ever changing world-wide market place?” Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges asked to begin the session which also heard from Mr Phil Lynch, CEO of Media, Manchester United Football Club, which has sport’s most valuable global brand.
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said that horse racing must create a brand identifiable with “world class racing sport and entertainment,” and with a relentless global focus. “Anyone with a mobile device can be engaged anywhere and at anytime. Developing a global racing brand is a major platform for growth and prosperity,” he said.
“It is my vision that within the next decade, racing can climb back to become one of the world’s top 10 sports,” he said, noting that horse racing, not so long ago one of the world’s most popular sports, now ranks outside the world’s top 20 in the global popularity stakes. “That racing is no longer in the top 20 is a wake-up call for all of us.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said that horse racing had lost popularity as it became more perceived as a gambling sport only.
“A global brand is necessary in the fast-changing sport and gaming landscape. Our brand is dominated by gambling and we have to change that perception. We need to position racing in a way which will enable its customers and potential customers to recognise the aspects of the sport that will appeal to them. By doing this, racing will be able to expand its fan base across demographic groups.
“The brand is our promise to our customers on who we are and what they can expect from us. It differentiates us from our competitors. Each brand has an identity – which is how we want our customers to perceive our products and our brand itself – each brand has to have positioning,” Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges called for a master plan which creates “emotional attachment” and targets a broader audience. “In the past we have individually made an effort to increase the awareness of our horses, jockeys and races but we have been preaching to ourselves. We have to change our brand position and broaden our customer base and I ask all major racing organisations to share this global vision,” he said.
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges was unequivocal in calling for the highest standards of integrity and a commitment to eradicate the use of race day medications and doping and a commitment to high standards in overall horse welfare.
“First, before any push for a global racing brand, we need commitment from all stakeholders on integrity, anti-doping and horse welfare. If we don't have these fundamentals in order we will have no chance. We have too many people who try to bend the rules. It needs a strong commitment to medication-free racing from everybody in the sport, it’s an absolute must. There is no room for ambiguity.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges also said that horse racing must push beyond the widely-held perception that it is purely a vehicle for gambling. He argued that its greatest appeal lies in what he termed its “sub-brands,” the racehorses, the jockeys and the races.
“We have to broaden our fan-base and to do that we clearly have to shift from gaming as the main brand, to leisure and entertainment; racing must be positioned as world class sport,” he said.
Mr Lynch, CEO of Media at Manchester United, spoke about the need to maintain brand relevance outside of the physical duration of a sports event, and stressed the importance of utilising multiple platforms in uniquely-tailored ways in order to meet the individual expectations of global consumers across demographic groups.
“We have identified the need to keep fans engaged beyond the 90 minutes of the game and develop platforms of direct dialogue with our consumers wherever they might be,” Mr Lynch said, noting that Manchester United had 659 million followers and a cumulative annual television audience of three billion.
Mr Lynch said the club’s communication was tailored and targeted to suit the specific demographic of the audience with very little “double up” through various social media platforms.
“If you don’t have a presence when the customer is scrolling through any feed at any given time then you miss them. And the message has to be targeted given an average internet attention span of eight seconds.”
Still, Mr Lynch added, “when it comes to content, the overarching question should be – is it compelling enough to push send?”