by Frank Cotolo
In the realm of “all harness racing is local,” we continue with our suggestions from part one on involving bettors in driving championships races (part one here).
Here are the essentials to the plan, which may be used as a template for other such events (to be addressed in part three).
Call the promotion something like “Driving Partners” or “Drive Time Play” — anything that sounds catchy. The shorter the name, the better it sticks in the minds of bettors.
First and foremost, tell bettors they could win “VALUABLE BETTING VOUCHERS” by participating. Exactly how many vouchers are rewarded is up to the track, but it is imperative there is not going to be a single winner, that is, prizes will be awarded in tiers. (More people will have the initiative to when it costs nothing and you can still win something.)
An example of prizes:
The person or person(s) backing the championship’s winning driver will receive $100 in betting vouchers each (for your track only — you may add any other conditions you deem necessary). Second-placers in points win $50 in vouchers each; third-placers in points win $20 in vouchers; and fourth-placers in points win $5 in vouchers. Note that if for any reason no one committed to the driver that wins, all participants will receive a prize that the track decides upon (one of your promotional items already in stock).
Here are some suggested rules:
Before the designated contest races begin, a bettor must record his or her commitment to supporting a driver to win the entire contest (more than one person can commit to the same driver). Bettors record their allegiance to one driver by filling in a short form on the track website or at some designated spot at the track itself. (Always ask — do not require — that a contest participant add their email address to allow future announcements and promotions to be delivered).
Contest participants are encouraged — not required — to wager on their driver choice when he or she is in one of the championship racing legs.
Someone in the racing office, let’s say, maintains the simple calculations (keeping score of points for participants) as they ensue.
The publicity director will set up a “Leader Board.”
Here is one concept for using a driver championship for the bettors signed up for it:
Encouragement to wager on the races is presented by the track announcer, who adds to his or her script for a designated race something like: “This race is a leg in the [Driving Partners] contest, so if you signed up to back a driver, you may want to make some money yourself by supporting him (or her) in this race.”
You get the idea.
A very simple point system is developed for participants. An example:
Bettors whose driver wins a leg get 10 points; a place finish awards 5 points; a show finish awards 3 points and finishing fourth awards 1 point.
The person in charge of keeping tabs of points records what is earned by bettors from the contestants’ original commitments, and as the contest ensues; the Leader Board, an ongoing report on the standings, is posted on the track website (pump it up on the home page each time there is a change) and one or two spots at the track.
At the end of the contest, when the winning driver is announced, also announce the winning bettor(s). Any and all of them showing up at the track the night of the announcements will be invited into the winner’s circle to take photos with the championship driver.
It should not end there.
Afterwards, have your PR person interview the winning driver in a brief video (it is so easy these days to visually record such moments) and the top winner(s) of his or her supporters in the contest. Post those videos on your website and if you have a YouTube page, post them there, too.
No one loses; not even the extras that wound up with drivers that did not earn enough points to reward a voucher. After all, it cost nothing to sign up.
An important angle to this connection is appealing to the bettor as an informed, respected member of the wagering community. When you allow the bettor to make his or her own decision on how to gamble, you are sending a message of trust, saying, “Hey, we know you are making calculated risks (betting) based on your knowledge of the game.” This is why one rule has to apply to all of the public-involved events you produce.
Never assign bettors a choice by lottery.
As we always emphasize in this department, understanding the nature of your customer is essential to keeping your customer satisfied, loyal and appreciated. It is not so difficult, and yet the racetrack industry has continued to keep its distance from the very people that support its existence.