Thursday, 15 October 2015

Trainers and Horse Boxes: “I See Them Here, I See Them There, But There’s No Marketing Anywhere”

It constantly amazes me how trainers cope with the endless travelling. Last week my wife and I followed our horses: He’s A Bully to Exeter, Shantou Magic to Newton Abbot and then Jolievitesse and Timeless Art to York, with additional visits to the yards of Anthony Honeyball in Dorset and Karl Burke in Middleham. Encouraging runs for the most part, particularly Timeless Art who was unlucky not to win a valuable 7f maiden and will definitely keep the dream alive over the winter. This was the thick end of 1,000 miles of driving, and many trainers are regularly doing this, week in, week out. In the last blog I gave a few recommendations for places to stay and eat, and there are a few more after this trip: if you’re going down to Anthony’s, the 17th Century Somerset Dining Pub of the Year, is thoroughly recommended, while up in Middleham our favourite, going back several decades, is

By the way, unlike the organisers of commercial syndicates, we don’t charge any expenses whatsoever for going racing. We follow our horses because of the love of the sport, not as a source of income.

While driving round the country throughout this, for us, mammoth trip, I lost track of how many racehorse trainers’ horse boxes that I saw. Stuck behind them, I couldn’t help but observe how boring they are as an advertisement for the trainer and Great British Racing. The great majority are just “A. Trainer”, in a village you’ve never heard of, with few contact details. This is in marked contrast with many lorries that you see from the retailers and consumer goods companies who actively promote their products.

If you were a bit more structured about this, next time you see a horse box, try assessing it in terms of (a) overall presentational impact, (b) selling potential, (c) a specific offering, (d) a call to action, i.e. actually to do something, (e) contact details. If you gave 10 points to each of these five factors, I will guarantee that most boxes will score less than 20/50. Or as my teachers used to say in end-of-term reports, “should try harder”.

As I thought about this a bit more, I couldn’t help but feel that there is huge marketing potential, both for the trainer in selling horses and also more generally to promote British racing. In effect horse boxes are travelling billboards. At any one time there are 18,000 horses in training. Assuming that most horses would race, say, five times a year and be transported around in boxes each time, even in shared transit, there must be at least 50,000 box journeys a year. So 1,000 journeys a week x say, an average of 300 miles x (pure guesstimate) 100 vehicle viewings per mile is a fleeting weekly exposure to c. 30 million drivers and passengers. That must have a considerable subliminal impact on the viewer. I just wonder what value a marketing media specialist would put on 30 million communication hits a week, or 1.5 billion a year. Now of course the maths may be wildly wrong, but you get the drift of my logic.

I’m sure that the vast majority of trainers will have no intention of investing money to convert their horse boxes to high-impact advertising vehicles. And yet there must surely be huge potential for the trainer, their sponsors and British racing if anyone was prepared to facilitate such an investment. Maybe something for the National Trainers’ Federation and Great British Racing to consider? And I know that next year there is going to be a marketing push on syndication. Here is a challenge – every trainer to advertise syndicated horses for sale somewhere on their lorry, and find out if it brings new owners into their yard and the sport. Keep a track of the costs, and new owners and income coming in to the yard, and calculate the return on investment. It seems a sensible idea to me …. but I wonder why I’ve probably convinced myself already that it won’t happen?

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