On the Path to Fan DevelopmentJason Wilson - Vice President of Business Development, The Jockey Club
Ogden Mills Phipps: Thank you, Jim. The Jockey Club hired Jason Wilson as our vice president of business development two years ago, and he's covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. He's overseen and managed many of the initiatives The Jockey Club has embraced in the wake of the McKinsey & Company comprehensive economic study of the industry in 2011. He's here to tell you today about them. We're also fortunate to have Mike Lamb of McKinsey back with us again today to share some insights from his team.
Jason will start this segment.
Jason Wilson: Thank you, Mr. Phipps, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen here in Saratoga and those joining us online, especially my family back in New Rochelle.
Last year we heard for McKinsey & Company about the prognosis of our sport and recommendations of what we can do to put it back on the path of growth. We'll hear from Michael Lamb of McKinsey in a few moments with a follow up analysis of how the industry as a whole is doing.
But for now I want to provide an update on what The Jockey Club is working on to implement several of these recommendations, specifically in the area of fan development.
Here, the McKinsey Study can be boiled down to one simple fact. Although core values of racing in North America are still powerful, we are losing the battle for new bettors and new fans. In fact, McKinsey estimates that Thoroughbred racing as an industry is losing 4% of its fans per year.
To address this attrition, McKinsey outlined broad strategies. First, refocus on the best racing through television, integrity reforms and elevating the best product. Second, recruit new fans through social games. And third, develop a more proactive strategies to convert casual fans into more active participants or otherwise finding a way to monetize their interest in the sport.
With this roadmap in hand, we did not waste any time in getting to work. We've seen some evidence of growth, and we've broken down some barriers with new tools and resources. In the months following last year's Round Table Conference, we lined up some very experienced talent in the areas of television, entertainment, and digital media.
With respect to television, we turned to Ed Desser and Ken Adelson, former executives at NBA Entertainment, to oversee the production of our television and digital strategy. We also met with several producers and others to discuss how they would improve racing's television coverage.
Under their guidance, we produced a four week Road to the Kentucky Derby this year through the NBC Sports Group that garnered 1.6 million viewers.
We chose our races wisely as they accounted for 60% of the Kentucky Derby field, and eight of the top nine finishers. As a result, mainstream viewers were already introduced to the most promising 3 year olds prior to their big day, and televising the prep races set the stage for a successful Triple Crown series.
Ken Adelson, who is an Emmy Award winning producer, will oversee future television as our executive producer. He's also assisting NYRA this year in the 2012 edition of the Summer at Saratoga series, which began yesterday and continues today at 6:00 on the NBC Sports Network. For those at home, check your local listings.
On the gaming front, we created two new ones. The first, based on popular Facebook games, is called Thoroughbred World. To oversee its development we obtained Lloyd Melnick, who was the executive producer of one of the most popular social games on Facebook, "Gardens of Time."
Thoroughbred World is focused more on the breeding, training and owning aspects of the sport. If you'd rather spend more time on the farm than at the track, this is the game for you.
For the second game, we obtained Brenda Spoonemore, who has developed several sports fantasy games and has extensive sports and digital media experience. With her assistance, we developed Major League Horse Racing, a new take on sports fantasy games powered by social media.
It will focus on two to four races each week leading up to our premier events. The game is designed to give casual fans another avenue of engagement that will allow us to highlight our stars and continue our story lines. It will also provide an avenue for fans to learn about handicapping in a low risk way.
Recognizing that the sport was becoming more internally focused, The Jockey Club began work with the NTRA to bolster its efforts in reaching mainstream media, and significantly augmenting those forces by doubling its staff and housing its operations in our New York office. In addition, the NTRA Communications staff now includes a person dedicated solely to social media.
In the months leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the NTRA Communications team made inroads by placing favorable stories where Thoroughbred racing has not appeared in a long time or not at all.
Such outlets as the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Hispanic Market Weekly and Telemundo, just to name a few.
We also reached out to several key social influencers, otherwise known as bloggers, and invited them to the races on the road to Kentucky Derby series. We received several positive pieces in the Askmen.com, artofmanliness.com, and other sites devoted to the 30 something male, reaching over 5 million of their followers.
The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when the NTRA partnered with us in repositioning its website. Jim Gagliano asked if we could release a website focused on the new fan in time for our series. At the time, I did not have a team, and frankly, I never even thought about what such a site would look like. I think next time I'll know better than to say yes to launching a site in just four months.
But we seized the opportunity and after the operation we chose Lightmaker as our developer. They've done innovative work with Manchester United, the British Open, and the Professional Bull Riders Association. If you watched any of the recent British Open on your computer or through their mobile app, you've seen some of their fine work. With their able assistance, and the assistance of The Jockey Club Technology Services, we met the goal by launching the site in April, and we attracted 150,000 unique visitors who viewed 1.5 million pages of our content all in the first six weeks.
To promote our messaging, we retained Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions. The creative minds of Kip Cornett and his team came up with several campaigns, including the edgy Hoof Locker videos, as well as more traditional fare.
Some of these videos show you really cannot be caught up in what critics say. Some loved them, some thought they were not in good taste, but we continue to try new things and we'll continue to do so.
We did all of this before the Kentucky Derby.
What happened next demonstrates the power of the assets that we have assembled and the relationships that we have made. In the weeks surrounding the Triple Crown races we were able to establish distribution arrangements with the leading sports media outlets in the country that made our content available to tens of millions of people.
We also partnered with CineSport, a sports focused digital video communication company, to expand our reach to online publishers such as the Boston Globe, Philadelphia Enquirer, Baltimore Sun, and The Sporting News.
With the Hennegan Brothers we produced a documentary on I'll Have Another, and secured three time slots on the NBC Sports Network to air it. And we worked with NYRA to provide innovative coverage leading up to the Belmont Stakes as well as the race itself.
It capped an incredible eight months of effort, and here's a sample of what we did.
I love that shot of Mario after he meets James Earl Jones.
On the site behind me is a snapshot of some of our numbers through today.
In the two months since the Belmont Stakes, we've worked to develop a more overarching strategy that flows from the roadmap we began last year. We recognize that fan engagement goes beyond television and games. Today it extends to digital, mobile and physical environments. Other sports have embraced the concept of a second screen that supplements television coverage on your computer or through devices by either providing the event when television is unavailable or providing more information about the event and its participants so fans can be more immersed in what's going on in the sport. This is especially true for us younger folks.
This dynamic was highlighted by Paul Lee of Deloitte at last month's Asian Racing Federation Conference. In discussing from a global perspective, he made these observations: Digital devices should be considered as complements; they are not stand alone products. TV is a principal driver of computer, tablet, and smartphone-based activity from search to shopping, and better TV coverage of racing should drive awareness, including among younger age groups.
In short TV is the fuel that drives the strategy. But to turbo charge it, it needs distribution through other media.
Now I'm a student of history, and we recognize over the past 25 years the sport has gone through several iterations in an attempt to support itself internationally. But today there are new platforms to reach our target audience. For one thing, the emergence of digital and social media as well as sports and entertainment has made it much easier to reach people in an efficient and cost-effective manner. As a result, it's easier to find a self sustaining model to fund these resources.
So we'll develop a strategy that involves media outlets, television, new digital media, and mobile technologies to provide fans a more contemporary experience, educate them about the sport and meet them where they can consume sports and entertainment. It provides multiple entry points for new and casual fans to find the sport. We are executing the strategy under the brand name, America's Best Racing.
America's Best Racing will focus primarily on our premier races and the events leading up to and surrounding them. We'll use this structure to drive our storytelling by presenting the athletes and connections to watch while telling of our rich history and traditions. Rather than focus on the race as a race, we'll focus on the day as an event, highlighting the lifestyle, venue, and of course the competition.
We'll target new and casual fans to attract a younger demographic. One powerful tool to do this is social media methods such as Twitter, which is tailor made for the fast paced communal world of horse racing. Top events in horse racing regularly push through to the Top 10 spots on Twitter, both nationally and internationally. For example, in the spring, all of the preparations in our telecast garnered multiple spots in the Top 10 for Twitter trending.
We've also begun to collaborate with tracks on how we can work together. One area where we've made progress is content sharing. We now share videos with several tracks in the country. Another area is our Racing 101 franchise. Together with the team at Horseplayer Now, we are developing a fan hub where people can learn about betting, participate in a dialogue through social media, and meet the sport's participants.
In the next 12 months, we'll build on the foundation we've set so far this year. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that both Thoroughbred World and Major League Horse Racing are being released and you'll see more promotion around both games this week and the weeks to come.
In the next few months, we'll continue our insider series of videos and roll fan hubs for our big days to Saratoga, Del Mar, Santa Anita and Keeneland. Here's a look at the fan hub last week at the Whitney here in Saratoga.
In November, we will promote fan development in and around Los Angeles in connection with the Breeders' Cup World Championships, and next spring we'll once again introduce the world to the next crop of 3-year-olds vying for the Triple Crown. But above all, we'll continue to experiment and do what we can to promote the sport we all love.
Since our first telecast on March 24, we've reached more than 2 million people through our telecasts, website, and distribution partners, and, as the video says, this is only the beginning.
Thank you. Now I'd like to turn it over to Michael Lamb of McKinsey.