Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, chairman of the Asian Racing Federation and CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, called for the creation of a global brand for racing May 15 at the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul.
"What is the global brand of racing and how can we ensure that brand is well received across an ever-changing worldwide marketplace?" Engelbrecht-Bresges asked to begin the session. He said horse racing must create a brand identifiable with "world class racing sport and entertainment," and with a relentless global focus.
"Anyone with a mobile device can be engaged anywhere and at anytime. Developing a global racing brand is a major platform for growth and prosperity," he said. "It is my vision that within the next decade, racing can climb back to become one of the world's top 10 sports."
Engelbrecht-Bresges said that horse racing, not so long ago, was one of the world's most popular sports. He said it now ranks outside the world's top 20 in global popularity.
"That racing is no longer in the top 20 is a wake-up call for all of us," he said. "A global brand is necessary in the fast-changing sport and gaming landscape. Our brand is dominated by gambling and we have to change that perception. We need to position racing in a way which will enable its customers and potential customers to recognize the aspects of the sport that will appeal to them. By doing this, racing will be able to expand its fan base across demographic groups.
"The brand is our promise to our customers on who we are and what they can expect from us. It differentiates us from our competitors. Each brand has an identity, which is how we want our customers to perceive our products and our brand itself. Each brand has to have positioning."
Engelbrecht-Bresges called for a master plan which creates "emotional attachment" and targets a broader audience.
"In the past we have individually made an effort to increase the awareness of our horses, jockeys, and races but we have been preaching to ourselves," he said. "We have to change our brand position and broaden our customer base and I ask all major racing organisations to share this global vision."
In creating such an approach, Engelbrecht-Bresges said it's essential to eradicate the use of raceday medications and doping and commit to high standards in overall horse welfare.
"First, before any push for a global racing brand, we need commitment from all stakeholders on integrity, anti-doping, and horse welfare. If we don't have these fundamentals in order we will have no chance," Engelbrecht-Bresges said. "We have too many people who try to bend the rules. It needs a strong commitment to medication-free racing from everybody in the sport, it's an absolute must. There is no room for ambiguity."
Engelbrecht-Bresges also said that horse racing must push beyond the widely held perception that it is purely a vehicle for gambling. He argued that its greatest appeal lies in what he termed its "sub-brands," the racehorses, the jockeys, and the races.
"We have to broaden our fan base and to do that we clearly have to shift from gaming as the main brand, to leisure and entertainment; racing must be positioned as world class sport," he said.
Attendees also heard from Phil Lynch, CEO of Media for Manchester United Football Club, which has sport's most valuable global brand.
Lynch spoke about the need to maintain brand relevance outside of the physical duration of a sports event, and stressed the importance of using multiple platforms in uniquely tailored ways in order to meet the individual expectations of global consumers across demographic groups.
"We have identified the need to keep fans engaged beyond the 90 minutes of the game and develop platforms of direct dialogue with our consumers wherever they might be," Lynch said, noting that Manchester United had 659 million followers and a cumulative annual television audience of 3 billion.
Lynch said the club's communication was tailored and targeted to suit the specific demographic of the audience with very little "double up" through various social media platforms.
"If you don't have a presence when the customer is scrolling through any feed at any given time, then you miss them," he said. "And the message has to be targeted given an average internet attention span of eight seconds."
Still, Lynch added, "When it comes to content, the overarching question should be, 'Is it compelling enough to push send?'"