by Frank Cotolo
Alternative Actions (AA) once again offers racetrack public relations/marketing departments a plan in which they might use as a foundation for promoting business once racing resumes. This one is an updated and unique version of an old and tired tool — the questionnaire.
In the past, the questionnaire aimed at attaining an understanding of what pari-mutuel track patrons like and dislike about a track and the sport (product) it presents. Questionnaires attempted to show an honest concern for what a track might do to please its audience. The focus, however, was misguided, because mostly the inquiries had little to do with gambling on the product and all to do with making the customer comfortable while, and if, he or she was gambling at all.
The making-customers-comfortable approach, then, dealt with the fringes of track services; the food, the drink, the social atmosphere and the ease of navigating around the facility for general purposes (including the convenient betting-windows-or-machines locations. You know, just in case you want to bet $2 here and there — just on a hunch).
That questionnaire’s main problem is twofold.
First, it does not appeal to the track’s main audience — bettors. Next, it places an unnecessary focus on a business that has no business taking precedence over the main audience. Here are examples:
Imagine you own a pizza parlor and you spend most of your advertising budget on a new product, a designer hamburger you include on the menu.
Imagine you own a brand-name car lot and you pay to produce and broadcast TV ads that concentrate on the gorgeous neighborhood where the lot is located.
These are examples of blatantly misguided attempts because they merely flirt with presenting the main product. No wonder old questionnaires like those were never responsible for bringing in customers.
What AA’s ultimate questionnaire offers is a dead-eye direct target — the bettors — and what makes AA’s ultimate questionnaire more effective than just that is the fact that it serves the source (the track) as much as it serves the audience (the bettors) and does so without insulting their tenacious gambling desires.
Let’s look at details for AA’s ultimate questionnaire (AAUQ).
AAUQ does not ask for any personal information. When a person participates in such a “study,” that person tends to express his or herself more freely when anonymous. Oddly enough, the same bettors that never suppress opinions or judgments when it comes to horses, horsemen and races, become hesitant to surrender the privacy asked to commit opinions in a questionnaire.
Next, to support participation beyond dismissing personal info, AAUQ questions will offer “rewards” to all completing an AAUQ form. This can be done without requesting personal information. Here is how:
Each AAUQ will have a unique number on it. The clear, bold number (example: U8DDD) becomes a participant’s unique ID number, as indicated at the top of the AAUQ text. The participant is asked to write his or her ID number down in a safe place and to keep it a secret after submitting the form.
Then, as indicated on the form, the participant is told to wait for an announcement, which will be broadcast by the track announcer during a race program, as well as it will be presented on the track website and simulcast broadcast, about how to “cash in” using the ID. (Note: the words “cash in” are the only words to use about receiving the thank-you reward.)
The AAUQ questions are short. Their brevity will encourage people to share their thoughts because it does not take a lot of time away from whatever they want to do otherwise — such as betting and watching what they bet upon with the usual and utmost desire to win.
Here are some sample questions. Note they are not numbered; this is because numbering questions makes however many questions appear like there are too many.
How good would it feel if you never again ended an evening of betting without cashing any tickets?
(B) Just OK
(C) Don’t care
Would you like to receive cash credit for how much you wagered after an evening of betting, whether you won, lost or broke even?
(B) Just OK
(C) Don’t care
If you answered “Absolutely” to the previous question, which of the following would you consider fair for the amount you bet that evening?
By now, you should realize the AAUQ is a clever advertising maneuver which carefully presents a simple rebate plan aimed at the people taking the time to pay attention to the AAUQ. By approaching bettors this way, you are telling the people completing the questionnaire they are VIPs, specifically eligible for a reward and future support in the form of money.
The specifics of such a plan are negotiable, of course, but even if such a plan doesn’t come about, you send a strong, positive message to bettors participating, one that is planted firmly. They know that your track genuinely appreciates them and takes the time (and money) to become their partner achieving pari-mutuel success.