How 21st century marketing works

Harness racing fans will be marketed to in never-before-seen ways.

by Dean Towers

Over the years we’ve all heard the lament that harness racing has not marketed itself enough. There are no newspaper ads, no billboards; direct mail campaigns don’t exist. And of course, with the Internet, there are no banner ads. It’s like the sport was in a vacuum.

I tend to agree with some of the complaints. As Google trends charts show, this sport is swimming upstream: General interest in harness racing is less than half of what it was 17 years ago. A lack of attention in these matters comes with a consequence.

How do companies or verticals tackle a falling or stagnant customer base in 2022? Marketing is marketing, but today the products and mediums are very different from even five years ago. In fact, some are pretty mind-blowing.

Picture a 30-something man who at some point in the past has searched for sports scores or sports gambling products. He’s at home watching an on-demand network show or live TV on his Roku or Android box while lounging on his couch. At the commercial break, he’s one of only two or three people in his entire neighborhood that’s served a harness racing ad.

“I haven’t seen one of those before,” he says.

Later that day he decides to go for a drive; the weather is great and he’s bored. He looks down, and seeing he’s close to empty, he stops for gas. While pumping his $4 a gallon liquid gold, he hears a voice and glances over to see another harness racing commercial on the pump’s video screen.

“That’s odd, I just saw one of those”, he says.

After filling up he notices an ice cream shop across the street, and since it’s such a great day he decides to indulge in a double scoop of rocky road. While enjoying his treat he surfs the New York Times website to catch up on the news, and lo and behold he gets served another harness racing ad. This static banner – like ones you and I have seen a million times — lets him know the first post at the Meadowlands is in one hour.

“That’s only a mile away, and I haven’t been there in years. Why not go?” he thinks.

If this sounds like a Philip K. Dick novel, it’s not. This marketing is happening right now. A person is targeted via an audience based on their behavior, he or she is shown an ad via their targeted location, and then from that IP address they can be targeted again through remarketing on their mobile phone where ever they are.

What’s perhaps even more interesting about this medium is that our friend who ended up going to the track can be targeted again, anytime the weather is nice and he’s near the Meadowlands (or any other racetrack for that matter). And, our machine can analyze our targeted user and based on his characteristics and behavior, target new users who are just like him.

The world has certainly changed, and marketing has along with it. A newspaper ad in 1990 was served to everyone; a TV ad during the Nightly News hopefully reached someone you wanted.

Now marketers can serve ads to you whether it’s rainy or sunny or snowy with a weather API; to people around stores, stadiums or racetracks with geo-fencing. And they can target audiences that are more likely to visit their store, or buy their product, or visit their event with incredible behavior-based accuracy.

It might sound like science fiction, and maybe it’s a bit creepy. But it’s easier than ever to find potential harness racing fans and bettors and market to them. The old marketing mediums and tactics are on the cusp of becoming ancient history.