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British horse racing’s short-term and long-term marketing problem

Horse racing has a rich history in the UK – in fact, not many people realise that the first records of horse races can be traced back to as early as the 1100s. That means almost 1,000 years of history. 

This is one of the oldest gambling industries in the world, and there are always some ups and downs within the industry, but marketing may pose some special challenges.

Around the UK and Ireland, there are a number of the most popular horse racing tracks in the world, and there are certain locations and hotspots, such as Ireland, where the sport is still massive. Irish betting sites are in constant competition with each other to offer new bonuses and attract new customers, which means there’s always plenty to choose from. If you’d like to check out the options, you can review the list here.

Potential industry changes

What is allowed and what isn’t in terms of marketing is one of the challenges that is constantly under review. The government has created a white paper specifically discussing the future of the sport and how it may face some changes as the industry evolves.

Fewer in-person options

The desire that people have to bet in person has undeniably dropped significantly in recent years and decades. Online gambling has taken over in that respect, and the convenience of being able to sign up and bet using an app is something that many people appreciate. However, it should be said that some still prefer to gamble in person, and it has become more difficult for these people. 

Not everybody is as comfortable betting online. A short-term issue that seems to be prevalent in the industry is the fact that some of the betting shops are closing down, so there will be some people whose access to betting facilities is becoming more limited. Some people just prefer to bet in a bookmakers’ store. 

Some of the sites will remain, and the brands may see their high street presence as part of an omnichannel marketing strategy, but over time, it is possible that all of the options will run out for those who prefer in-person gambling, and they may be forced to change their habits.

Moving from huge events to regular attendance

So much of the attention in the UK is on a few of the more high-profile events. People may well engage with the sport of horse racing when the Derby or the Grand National roll around each year, but the more regular race meets may not get the attention they deserve.

One of the reasons for this, which could prove to be a long-term barrier to marketing success, is that some of the events take place during traditional working hours. This certainly limits the number of people who can actually attend. Whereas football tends to have its matches on weekday evenings or at the weekends, horse racing may have events at lunchtime on a Wednesday. This is partially down to the fact that certain conditions need to be met for the races to go ahead, and evenings don’t work as well for the races from a logistical point of view.

Cheltenham Festival and other huge events get big crowds through the door, but for marketing to be successful in the long term, it would be wise for the horse racing industry to try to get the regular attendances up when there aren’t huge festivals happening.

Foreign competition

Like many other industries, the horse racing industry is facing foreign competition. An increase in the number of events may mean that the number of people betting on specifically UK-based horse races may drop. There is a bigger pool for bettors to choose from and more events they can potentially back. While foreign competition won’t really affect the numbers of those attending UK horse racing in person, it might mean more eyeballs and more bets on foreign sports rather than British horse racing.

Japan, America and the Middle East all have big horse racing scenes at the moment, and the industry is expanding in some other countries too.

Broadcasting deals

Broadcasting deals always have a big influence in what is going to happen in terms of viewership of sports. A lot of the bigger broadcasters are focusing on other sports at the moment, such as football and even American sports that are becoming much more popular in the UK. 

If horse racing is on a more obscure channel, or isn’t even shown at all in the UK, then it is very possible that people will lose interest or not be able to follow it so closely. One of the challenges that could be facing horse racing in the long term is ensuring that there are ways for people to watch the race meets.

Some of the big betting sites have already addressed this by allowing streaming on their sites, and this could be one way in which people are still able to watch the racing events.

Horse racing is still in good shape, with millions of people interested in the sport, but there are some big hurdles (pun intended!) for the sport to overcome to remain among the most popular UK betting events.