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Like It Or Not, It's the Truth

by Jeremy Plonk

June 18, 2018

We in horse racing have this sense that if you just experienced it once that you’d be hooked like us. So the vast majority of our focus in terms of attention and dollars is spent accessing your presence. But think about your own life experiences for a moment. Did that really work for you? If you’re like me, it did not.

There’s a catch. And it’s an awfully big one. 

You had to actually like what you experienced.

We have had quite a few reminders both professionally and personally in the past two weeks of sports. Of course, Justfy’s run to and through the Triple Crown brought some fresh eyes to the product that a non-sweep spring just can’t provide. That was part of a three-day title sweep that included the NBA and NHL crowning its titlists. And right after that brought about the U.S. Open golf tournament and the World Cup of soccer.

By the theory of the racing community, you’ve obviously now become a fan of the NBA, NHL, golf and spotted footballs off the cleats of names you cannot pronounce. And by mid-week this week, you no doubt will be enthralled and immersed with all things Royal Ascot and racing on the other side of the pond.

If only it worked that way.

Exposure holds importance for obvious reasons. It’s hard to like what you can’t find. But to think it’s even close to an end-all, be-all is short-sighted. Acquiring customers is the most costly thing any company does outside of its own payroll. Keeping them may not cost quite as much, but certainly takes more work. You can’t spend your way to impressing a potential customer. You have to work at that. Hands on. 

So we can thank Justify for bringing some potential fans to the casting call for future customers. But his work is done. Ours just begins. But it many, many cases, the work already is over. You either hooked the Justify gawker or you didn’t. They either liked what they saw or they didn’t. That part often is out of your control, no matter how cool of a game you think this is.

I bring back your personal experiences to highlight this point. The World Cup is supposed to enlighten me on how football is played worldwide and its global popularity a sales point to what I am missing. But I am not missing anything. I’ve tried it. Don’t like it. In fact, I played 2 years of varsity soccer in high school at the urging of some friends who had played regularly, and actually was recruited by some small schools collegiately. I then tried to get into watching the 1994 World Cup in the US a few years later. Now, some 24 years have passed and I haven’t watched a soccer game since. 

Golf? No amount of US Open television coverage or Tiger Woods updates on SportsCenter or the National Enquirer will bring me in. Seems a cool enough vibe. A beautiful walk. I enjoy dining at golf course clubhouses regularly. But I hate the game. Tried it several dozen times and I sucked at it. Spending $100 to lose a dozen balls and get angry didn’t resonate.

In fact, golf sounds an awful lot like the racetrack experience. It’s a game you’re going to fail at over and over and over and it can get expensive without any success. It takes a certain patience and attention to technique to hit the links regularly, just as it does to play the horse races. You yearn for that one good shot amongst a lot of larger numbers on your scorecard. Most of all you need to have a stomach for losing. I guess I’ve felt better hitting a few more trifectas in my day than three irons.

The mere introduction of a sport or gambling endeavor, no matter how much we may love it from within, does not translate to acquisitions. We must find people who will actually like what they find on the other side of the hidden curtain. It is then that our ability to woo and work can be successful.