by Frank Cotolo
When I was active in radio broadcasting there was an industry policy restricting the territory every radio station covers. It read: “All radio is local.”
Radio station coverage was sliced and spread across North America to compete with one another only in a particular area, known as a market. That market’s commercial businesses were the lifeblood of a station’s income, keeping stations afloat through local advertising targeted at residents within the broadcast market. The rule was important to the survival of local radio stations.
Then came the digital revolution.
Commanded by a new technology, the borders of any broadcast facility’s market were obliterated. Digital tools allowed instant reception almost anywhere on Earth. Physical borders have become irrelevant. With what is now household hardware, along with digital software, a person in Hobart, Tasmania can turn on his or her digital device and pick up a radio station in Ashtabula, OH, making the definition of “local” coalesce with the meaning of “global.”
Today, a large menu of pari-mutuel raceways provide simulcasts of their product at dedicated wagering websites and off- and on-track wagering areas. A fingertip’s touch can receive a visual race signal and bet on it. Suddenly there is no distance between, say, Northfield Park, U.S.A., and Albion Park, Australia. Times of day may alter in a virtual distance, but a live broadcast is real time, so for the horseplayer, hundreds of races are in the mix 24 hours a day for betting in every time zone.
Though raceways pick up business worldwide, they also contend with enormous additional competition, nationally and internationally. Only one source of income is exclusively available — a raceway’s local area’s local goods and services. How, then, might a raceway benefit from embracing its local presence to the tune of income?
“Wherever there is a void,” said a veteran Madison Avenue ad man, “there is a new market for something waiting to emerge.”
The general problem identified, including collateral damage (live attendance) caused by the pandemic, means creating the think tank and jumping into it with open minds should be a top priority for a raceway’s public-relations department.
Alternative Actions (AA) offers some ideas to build upon.
A raceway’s profile locally demands concentrated efforts promoting and serving commerce and charity in its community. If you read into that correctly, it means doing stuff for free (which will have financial benefits in the long run). Every business in your track’s immediate area faces the same problems as a raceway, that is, they have a need for more customers. Developing strong relations with local businesses unites elements of community commerce and nothing says “let’s work together for our community” better than free advertising.
Imagine everything a raceway can propose that could benefit neighboring businesses and charities. Do not restrict your imagination; let the ideas flow.
Present (commercial) Community Flea Markets – Your raceway parking lot has more space than you may ever need again. Still, it’s valuable real estate, so why not offer it free to house a flea market or two? Or more — always under the [your track name here] banner. Tell the local shops they can sell anything, as long as they give some stuff away through a raffle or some other gimmick. Try to make it a regular thing for local residents on a Saturday, maybe? Your raceway will have a kiosk at the flea market, too. Give away $2 bets if people join the [your track name here] e-mail list.
How about using the parking lot for charity purposes on Sundays? Have religious outposts unite to create Food Banks. During your racing programs, do a lot of public service announcements urging area residents to contribute non-perishable foods to their places of worship so those items can be handed out to the needy on Sundays at the [your track name here] Food Bank.
Meanwhile, back at the track — research area history and begin naming overnight races with regional historic names of people, places and things. Name a race after a founding father of the township; name a race after whomsoever started the public library or the family that pioneered agriculture or manufacturing.
Approach the city council and recommend [your track name here] as a regional gathering center for emergency situations. Work with the local fire and police department to centralize forces to help the public should some incident affecting the population occurs.
Speaking of radio, where we started all of this, the radio stations in your area still use at least part of their broadcasting times for exclusively local items (weather, hometown sports, traffic) and they still commit to local public-service programs and announcements. Feed them press releases about the participation of [your track name here] to the community’s good-will services and you get free, valuable airtime.
You get the idea; now find more ideas to make [your track name here] a local landmark that alters the general distaste many communities have for businesses that lose sight of all concern for their home team.