The Melbourne Cup needs follow-up. As one of the industry’s two big events (with the Golden Easter Egg), did we get the maximum benefit from it?
A fine night, great crowd, the biggest prize money in the world, good betting turnover and favourites won both the big races. What more could you ask for?
In Victoria, not so much. The state has lots of interactive community programs and the Herald Sun and Racing Radio give greyhound racing a good run. That’s why it provided two thirds of the betting action.
Elsewhere, a bit mixed. NSW did OK but it was nothing spectacular considering it has the country’s biggest population and some local dogs were involved. Apart from WA (whose figures are counted in Victoria’s) the others generated no starters. Betting or any other interest was so-so. Tattsbet is a poor cousin these days and no doubt many would prefer a tote with bigger pools – a national one perhaps.
What about next week, and the week after? Will the interest be maintained? Is there a platform to build on? How will the industry’s three main support sectors carry on – a tiny handful of professional punters, a declining number of serious weekly punters (including trainers and other participants), and a great swathe of mug gamblers, many of whom would barely know what race was on as they walked in off the street.
History suggests there will be a rapid return to normal, average, everyday goings on for two major reasons.
First, the public will not remember the names of the champions, or their breeders, owners and trainers. Post-race discussions will be minimal. Record books will not be consulted. Media will quickly lose interest. As it stands, two national dailies cannot spell the word “greyhound” – The Age and The Australian – while the Sydney Morning Herald pays lip service only to NSW events and none at all for interstate races. The tabloids cover racing because of readers’ interest in the gallops and because the TABs pay them to do it. TV is completely out of the picture.
The second factor is that greyhound racing advertises little and anything it does do is fragmented and aimed at the already converted – e.g. occasional SKY reminders of upcoming meetings. It is a national sport with no national image, no tag line, no slogan. Except, of course, when something nasty happens like the disgracefully biased rubbish run by ABC’s 7:30 Report. One step forward, two steps back.
To compete in today’s demanding world, those things have to change. The industry’s image must be created by itself, not by people with an eye for the main chance. Here are two obvious suggestions, one easily fixed, the other requiring industry bosses to take a step back and adopt a statesmanlike approach.
First, the title of the Melbourne Cup (dogs) has to change. It is ridiculous to continue in opposition to the only event in the country which attracts nationwide attention – the Melbourne Cup (horses). The gallops have had the title for well over a century so whatever we invest in that name will return no more than 50 cents on the dollar, especially as they are both run in the same month.
Second, the warring states have to get together and invest in a key unit which has the responsibility of developing marketing programs and promoting the sport all across the country. It would join independent panels which are badly needed to service two other needs – Track Design and Breeding trends – each of which require expertise which is patently not available in individual states or, if it is, that expertise is not being utilised.
The current national organisation, Greyhounds Australasia, is a miserable failure in these areas, partly because its self-appointed job description does not include them, and partly because its members prefer to go back home and do their own thing, whatever that may be.
This subject came up in a compelling article by Andrew Baxter, chief of a PR company (see The Australian 21 Nov, “Sports marketers need to break the formula and get us excited again“) where he called on sport organisers to “invest in quality campaigns to promote their sports”.
Baxter points out that “It’s one thing to have a great product, and another thing to promote it” and warns that “many of these organisations have fallen into the trap of hoping that the sport’s content and newsworthiness will promote itself at little cost”. Not today, it won’t.
As it stands, the greyhound industry is seeing no growth in the dog population, more empty boxes than ever before and is reliant on the future patronage of mug gamblers who have little or no idea what they are trying their hand at. We still have a product that is fairly well bred and expertly trained but from there on we rely on a “she’ll be right” approach to delivering the end package.
Occasional help from governments is there only because they recognise the source of their tax incomes. Surely, it is better and more reliable to re-build the product ourselves, starting with a lot of help from the wider Australian population.