There seems no stopping any athletic pursuit and niche sport from looking to gain popularity through social media outlets. All the major sports have large and concerted efforts to engage fans with varying degrees of success, while of late others are joining the evolution of social media, such as golf and the triathlon. This month it is the sport of kings that has jumped in the virtual world, looking to attract a new audience to horse racing.
Love The Races, a site dedicated to informing and entertaining racing fans, both new and established, is proclaiming their very own ‘Twitter revolution’ in Britain. Everyone related to the sport in have been encouraged to join Twitter and began updating fans. The group has created a rather extensive guide for fans, with six different groups tweeting. They are the jockeys, naturally, the trainers, the racing media, racecourses, those involved in the betting industry, and a last category focused on general racing information. There are 40 trainers listed and nearly 50 jockeys to follow. What’s more, over 60 media and journalists, 40 racecourses, and 25 bettors are also in the guide. In all, it is a fairly comprehensive guide and shows an impressive, organized effort to attract fans. The entire guide is available for download at the site.
Fans are also encouraged to look through pictures posted on the site from various races and tag themselves for a chance to win prizes. The group also has a “Voices of the Races,” section, where select race-goers will document their travels to the tracks with videos, photos, and blogs, all of which are available for comment and connection.
Racing For Change is part of the initiative to create a bigger fan base. “We are trying to do things which will enhance racing for people who are relative novices to the sport,” a spokesman for the group told the BBC.
While the effort seems like a given, racing does appear to be doing something that few other sports have attempted, and that none have publicized, which is getting those surrounding the game involved. It is not just the jockeys that are tweeting, but trainers and those involved at the tracks. It would be as if coaches and managers tweeted in the major sports, and surely they have something interesting to say. Fans are able to hear more than one perspective; that is, they are afforded comments by not just the athletes.
If any sport has to the potential to break through with a new audience through social media, it is horse racing. There is a storied history to the oft-heralded sport, but there is no shortage of competition and even hostility that takes place in front of the cameras and behind the scenes at the track. There is an aura of intrigue surrounding racing, and more access should start to uncover new stories. Just last year the sporting world was witness to a sudden and surprising set-to between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano in the winner’s circle following the Breeder’s Cup in Kentucky. All sports have jabs between rivals, whether verbal or physical, that erupts and draws attention. It seems that horse racing could do well to benefit from an arena where competition can flourish.
It is hard to control to what degree and in which direction athletes and fans will engage, but promoting social media outlets is the first step and at this point a no-brainer for the less popular sports. Love the Races is operating with regards to racing in Britain, but there is no reason it shouldn’t spread stateside, especially with the Kentucky Derby less than two months away. When given an outlet to speak, there is no telling what athletes will say in the perceived privacy of their computer with the public waiting and watching.