The European horseracing industry is set to try and replicate the razzle dazzle of the NFL following a Racing conference in London.
The NFL which has expanded dramatically over the last few years with 161.1 million viewers in the United States alone for the 2013 Super Bowl and is building excitement in the UK with the International Series which sells out Wembley every year.
Expanding to four games in London for 2014, the horse racing is looking to replicate the excitement of the American Football’s marketing campaign, which sees the players, superstars and the teams, worldwide brands.
Horse racing is hugely popular when it comes to sports betting, everyone can now compare all the possible odds for a horse at odds comparison websites like freebets.com and even watch streamed races online. As a result horseracing over the last few years has been plagued by falling attendances. Racing executives are looking to create a whole day’s worth of activities building up to the day’s races. Something which the NFL has been doing for many years.
Marc Reeves, the NFL’s international commercial director, who spoke in front of the 100 strong audience, joked because of all the exciting build up, the 16-game season schedule is “arguably the most boring part of the year.”
Even turning the Draft into a spectacle, he added, “It’s really just our commissioner standing up on a podium like this opening an envelope, and yet we’ve turned that into three days of prime-time live TV.”
However, France Galop, the governing body of French horseracing, are looking at improving the sport in a more moderated fashion. Jean-Christophe Giletta, the Deputy Managing Director of the body believes taking care of customers is the key to success.
He said, “We did not take care of our customers in the last 15 years.
“When you don’t take care of your customers, they go over to other sports.”
During this time, in particularly in the last ten years average attendances have continued to drop. In 2003 the average attendance was half a million per year, with half of these free admissions. The same year, it added another 250,000 free tickets and from then on, paid admissions have declined 5% per year.
Looking to create a more hospitable environment, Giletta is planning to increase the admission prices from on average €5 to €10 and €15 for the top 20 events, creating more of a premier environment.
With the increasing availability of television nowadays, Reeves believes making races more of an event would definitely help the sport to tempt people down to the track. Similarly, Bernie Mullin, chief executive of Aspire Group consulting, and a former NBA and NHL executive, told racing bosses, “You’ve got too many races, too many events, too many tracks – you need to restrict.”
But with the racing calendar so busy, it would be hard to pick out events to cut, and whilst there is plenty to learn from the NFL, it is unsure what exactly needs to be done in order to revamp European racecourses the glamorous and exciting place they once were.