Two weeks ago there was an uproar that a good part of the press box at Churchill Downs had ceded use to luxury seats. Less media, so out the space to work. Unfortunately in most of the horse racing tracks around the country, the press, let alone the press box, could be gone and few would notice.
While the NTRA is doing its best to infuse excitement and enthusiasm and value into elite racing, the fact remains that horse racing as it stands today probably still has too many tracks and too much competition to make it a viable business in its current form. The powers that be realize it at the top, and are chopping away to make the experience fun, fan friendly, and different than what it has been in the past, but they can’t do it alone.
So enter Lone Star Park near Dallas, Tx. The track continues to draw well on most days, and like other tracks that are looking to market, has gone the way of promotions, concerts and other events to draw in casual fans, families and others who may have misconceptions about a day at the races.
However even with all that effort, the press box remained unclaimed territory, and the track’s social footprint was nil. Some may say the reason for no social footprint was reflective of a clientele that is graying with little use or knowledge of anything digital. However even an older population is now more digital savvy, and to ho and het younger you have to fish where the fish are.
Enter Chris Yates and his team at Huddle Productions. A long time television producer, Yates worked with Lone Star to take over the press box and use it as a social media center for those around the track, and for a new audience of casual fans who may look to engage. The tie between races leant naturally to announcements of how and what to do in the social space to learn more about all the goings on during race day. Mini cameras provided new video postings to websites with thrilling finishes and fan goings-in and promotional winners. Promotional boards once blank alerted followers to hashtags and Facebook pages, and strategic placements in the social space, working with anyone around the track who was already engaging in the medium from jockeys to bettors to concert acts, boosted the buzz and awareness of everything Lone Star.
Those in the stands are encouraged to upload video that Lone Star can post…have a birthday announcement, let’s have a jockey give you a shoutout. Want some tips on the field in the third race, the social media team heads out to get some info, all of which is metered and shared with a world of engaged supporters around the Dallas area.
The result? Impressions on content when to three million in week one, a concert series which was doing OK, expanded its attendance, and Huddle brought value to even casual followers who never thought they would engage in the goings-on at a racetrack. The content was fun, informative and very promotable, with minimal cost and lots of upside.
Now the social press box or a blogger box is not new. It was really pioneered in the pro space by then Islanders PR head Chris Botta as a way to use the empty space he had, and Yates has taken that example and multiplied for Lone Star. The goal for Lone Star is more affinity and awareness to its brand and the work at the track, with the hope even down the road of a brand latching on to the social traffic for its own promotions. Heck with some luck, Yates may even put himself out of business, if Lone Star’s numbers rose and they need to repurpose the space for spectators and brands, ala Churchill Downs.
However for now, a track that was short on non-traditional outreach found an enterprising niche to help expand its footprint, and show that the social in social media can have great value beyond the traditional marketing spend.