By Peter J. Sacopulos
This is the second article in a two-part series on social media for Thoroughbred trainers. Part I appeared in the Winter 2017 issue. It examined social media usage and issues faced by trainers who wish to promote their business online. This installment focuses on broader issues facing the racing industry and how trainers can use social media to affect positive change and ensure the future of the sport.
In 1868, the publication of the The American Stud Book sparked the establishment and phenomenal growth of organized horseracing across the United States. America’s first racetrack had opened in colonial New York in 1665, and racing was popular in various areas of the country ever since, particularly the south. But the arrival of the first U.S. Thoroughbred registry was the game changer that transformed racing into a truly national sport.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the American Stud Book’s debut, but do not expect much in the way of celebration. America’s Thoroughbred racing industry currently faces a slew of challenging issues, and the future of the sport is far from guaranteed. Another historic game changer would certainly be welcomed, but today’s problems will not likely be resolved with a single stroke. Odds are that positive, popularity-driving change will unfold via a variety of initiatives and approaches over time.
Since these efforts will take place in the digital age, the power of social media will play a vital role in their success or failure. Proponents of racing will seek to harness social media to succeed. Opponents of racing will do everything they can to use social media to foil such efforts. This dynamic has already been playing out online for years, and we may expect it to intensify in the years ahead.
As a trainer working to build a business and a reputation, you may feel that dealing with larger industry issues is someone else’s responsibility. After all, you have plenty on your plate, and the people addressing the industry’s problems are the experts on these matters, so they should be able to handle them.
Though this line of thinking is perfectly understandable, it is a mistake. Positive change and growth that assures a healthy future for the industry increases your opportunities and helps assure your future as a trainer. Your professional voice on social media matters, and adding it to the chorus promoting racing is a wise investment of your time and energy. However, before discussing ways social media may help combat industry issues, a review of the issues is in order.
For decades, the steady decline of Thoroughbred racing’s popularity has been a serious challenge facing the industry in the United States. It remains so today. Before you type a phrase such as “Popularity of horseracing in the U.S.” into your computer’s search engine, brace yourself for some very dispiriting results. You will be presented with a list of articles with titles including “Horse Racing Fading in Revenue, Popularity” (Newsweek, 2016), “American Horse Racing Isn’t Dead–But It’s Getting Awfully Close” (The Guardian, 2015), “Horse Racing Faces Decline in Popularity” (The Sport Digest, 2016) and “The Kentucky Derby and the Slow Death of Horse Racing” (The Atlantic, 2012).
American horseracing was tremendously popular in the years before World War II, when it was one of the country’s favorite sports, along with baseball and boxing. Its popularity declined after the war, but still remained high. A slowly stewing combination of factors began gnawing away at it in the 1950s and ‘60s. The appearance of three Triple Crown winners in the 1970s created a resurgence of public interest, but the renewed enthusiasm proved fleeting.
It would take a book to detail all the causes of racing’s fading popularity, but the rise of other sports and other forms of gambling and entertainment played crucial roles, as did suburbanization and repeated economic downturns. The fact that a surprisingly small number of “superstar” horses and riders have emerged over the last four decades further dampened public interest. A lack of cohesive marketing was also to blame. When racing failed to capture the imagination of the Baby Boom generation and those that followed, the industry appeared to do little to counter the loss of interest.
The Dark Side Of Racing.....
TO READ MORE --
BUY THIS ISSUE IN PRINT OR DOWNLOAD -
August - October 2018, issue 49 (PRINT)
August - October 2018, issue 49 (DOWNLOAD)
Why not subscribe?
Don't miss out and subscribe to receive the next four issues!
Print & Online Subscription