Racecourses should make more of the humble racecard to promote the sport
As every business knows, or should know, it is easier and cheaper to keep your existing customers than it is to attract new ones.
It is something racecourses must be aware of and there are some encouraging signs in terms of small increases in advance tickets sales as a percentage of overall tickets purchased which means customer data can be captured and used to help achieve optimum repeat business.
But that repeat business will only be increased if the customer experience is a good one and future opportunities to go racing again are easily seen.
The seeping into public awareness of anti-social behaviour at racecourses is a barrier both to repeat business and to attracting new customers. It is a priority for racecourses that such behaviour is eradicated, and these scribblings have said before that a quick response to stop flare-ups is not the answer.
Rather than other racegoers feeling uncomfortable with the close proximity of people whose behaviour is affected by drink and drugs, it is those who over indulgence of drink and take drugs who should feel uncomfortable.
Dog patrols both at racecourse entrances and where drugs are most likely to be used, effective stewarding of places of where alcohol is on sale, maximum numbers of drinks which one person can purchase and alcohol-free areas are the least of the measures which should be put in place both as preventative and as demonstrative that action is being taken.
Concerning initiatives which could be introduced to help increase repeat business, it has long been a source of frustration that the humble racecard continues to be under utilised to enhance the experience of a day at the races and to get people coming back for more.
Whilst racecourses have their industry body to speak as one when circumstances require or when it is beneficial, they otherwise largely act in their own interests, either at group level, such as Jockey Club Racecourses, or individually, such as Ascot.
And that’s very much the case with racecards.
Of course, they should reflect the branding of the different racecourses but not to the extent that content which would be both a good read and help promote the sport is absent.
When did you last see a racecard advertise fixtures other than its own meetings? Yes, a track like Goodwood should let people know when its fixtures are, but why not also include nearby Brighton, Fontwell and Plumpton, and vice-versa?
Why not plot the season’s major events and explain, simply, the different types of races?
Why do racecards adopt different layouts for runners and riders, form, selections, etc? Why not use a uniform layout (and size) which presents the information in the best possible way and becomes familiar to users?
Why not make it a habit of guiding racegoers on how to get the best out of the day by visiting the parade ring, watching horses going to the start, having a bet, where to see the race, and going to the winner’s enclosure presentation?
Why not guide racegoers to what to look out for when the horses are parading?
Why not include a glossary that explains the terms that today’s racegoer will encounter, and that means excluding, for example, tic-tac now that it’s no longer in use?
Why not contain feature material similar to that found in other sporting programmers? Almost all racecards are produced by Weatherbys who have access to content which could run across all racecards for say two weeks before it is refreshed?
Why not include a regular column by an ITV Racing presenter to capitalise on their familiarity and help enhance the link between TV coverage and watching racing live?
I’m guessing, but racing is a sport where the official programme is of more importance to an occasional spectator than it is to someone at a football or rugby match, given that knowing who the runners and riders are is a prerequisite. But whilst a team sheet for a match is important, it’s the feature material about the players which appeals to those at football and rugby.
The same could become the case with racing, if the personalities, both human and equine, got the “fanzine” treatment.
Regular racegoers will encounter a lot of repeat content but, provided they’re not having to pay more for the privilege, they’ll hopefully see that it’s for the benefit of the sport. And, besides, some of the feature material might be just as informative for them as it is for less frequent racecourse visitors.
A last word on this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and it’s on the theme of attracting repeat business.
One of the spa town’s wine bars produced some vouchers to encourage customers to make return visits during the Festival.
They printed off 400 vouchers, but over 1,000 were redeemed.