OPINIONS: Don’t Forget the Humans, by TK Kuegler


By TK Kuegler

Don’t Forget the Humans

For those of us that love the racing world, we are enamored with the four-legged athletes that perform majestically.  We love seeing the horses fly around the oval at speeds that seem to defy logic.  But from an entertainment point of view, audiences love to connect with humans.  We like to understand the personality and features of our athletes. We want to connect with them as we root for them.  While we love our horse athletes in this sport, we want to make sure we don’t lose sight that the humans (i.e. jockeys and trainers) may actually be our most valuable asset as we attract new fans and increase the handle.  Here are a few creative ways to make this human connection happen:

On race day have profiles and interviews being broadcast constantly in between races.

There is a lot of downtime between races for a novice fan.  Use this time to allow them to get to know the people involved in the business.  Don’t make theses segments about the racing.  Use them to show and demonstrate the personalities of the people.  Make them fun and entertaining.

Make sure the humans are everywhere in the marketing avenues of the sport.

The modern world is driven by all forms of social media.  We need to get jockeys and trainers to be active participants on social media.  Allow them to understand the best techniques and processes for using these tools.  Offer workshops and training sessions run by industry experts so trainers and jockeys can understand how to leverage these tools and connect with fans.

Create fantasy leagues for jockeys and trainers

Fantasy sports is huge business.  People love the daily fantasy sports that are driven by FanDuel and DraftKings.  If we create leagues around jockeys and trainers performances, it will create new interest in the sport from a whole new audience.  And if done correctly, it could create a new revenue source to supplement the handle.

Make sure trainers and jockeys are available during race days

The average sports fan has almost no chance of spending any time with most players and coaches in professional sports.  But given the nature of how racing happens, there is plenty of time and opportunity for trainers to meet and greet with the crowd.  This type of activity should be encouraged.

Reward the jockeys who attract the most bets

I am 100% certain that many people would bet on a jockey in a race if they got to know that jockey through the efforts listed above.  Well, let’s reward the jockeys that do this the best.  Carve out part of the handle and create bonus programs for the jockeys that get the most money bet on them in a meet.  Reward them for being a fan favorite, and you can create a self-perpetuating positive situation.

Americans love their sports heroes and while we often advocate for our horse stars, we may actually get more benefit from the connection that comes when a fandom can identify and empathize with the humans in our game.  Let our fans get to know the people involved, and they will be much quicker to open up their wallets when they head to the window.

TK Kuegler has spent the last 25 years as a startup founder and investor. He is now managing partner of Wasabi Ventures Stables, which is bringing the startup thoughts and ideas to the racing industry.

You can follow TK on twitter: @TKKuegler, and follow Wasabi Stables: @WasabiStables. Check out Wasabi’s latest venture, the “Co-Ownership Club” at www.wasabistables.com

TK Kuegler bio courtesy of theracingbiz.com. Photo courtesy John Piassek.

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