Get on: the growth in racing’s future

A new page in sporting history was written in October at the Moonee Valley Racing Club when mighty mare Winx won her third-consecutive W.S Cox Plate, matching the three-peat  by Kingston Town some 35 years ago.

The win confirms Winx as one of Australia’s greatest thoroughbreds and embellishes the rich history of the Moonee Valley Racing Club.

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There is no question thoroughbred racing captures the hearts of the Australian identity come springtime. After successful spring campaigns at Melbourne Racing Club and Moonee Valley, Melbournians and the country as a whole, are now gearing up – literally - for the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

"With enhanced options and a limited customer wallet, how [does the racing sector] evolve and continue to thrive in this shifting landscape?” - Ben Volkering 

The contribution to the economy, on many fronts, is enormous. The collective history and presence of these clubs in the tapestry of Australian culture is immense. Their individual origins predate 1875 and still stand today as world-class racing clubs in their own right.

In those formative years I wonder whether the founding committees could have contemplated the modern day where these entities and others have emerged as diversified entertainment groups with live streaming entertainment assets, international broadcasting rights, omni-channel content creators, and modern live entertainment venues – driven not just by the racing but the highly successful re-framing of racing as a social and fashion event and not just a place for a flutter.


Yet as with others parts of the economy where the needs and demands of consumers are rapidly changing, the demand for uniqueness, differentiation and connectivity are ever present in racing.

Australians on a per-capita basis are some of the highest spenders globally on entertainment and media and, separately, wagering. The growth in event-based and destination tourism is strong. With enhanced options and a limited customer wallet, how do the mighty evolve and continue to thrive in this shifting landscape?

Earlier in 2017 the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) announced plans for the building of a new Club Stand.  The stand is part of a wider plan for the VRC’s Flemington Racecourse as the club continues to invest in race day experience.

Their offering is vast and spread across multiple physical assets, brand and partner activations, patron entertainment zones and televised media content. The club has long been associated with more than horse racing, becoming a center point for food, wine, celebrity, culture and fashion; continuously attracting and displaying the best of these.

That evolution continues. In 2016 the VRC announced a partnership with Twitter to live stream The Melbourne Cup across its platform alongside recent deals with Chinese platforms WeChat and Weibo.

The club has since expanded deals, producing customised content with Snapchat, and investing in a 360 degree live streaming cameras to capitalise on the off track entertainment offering throughout their various precincts.

This is additional to mainstream media across Seven West Media and In 2017 they will also broadcast the race live to Barangaroo in NSW. This is part of a trend as the owners of major sporting assets diversify and think beyond the reach of their traditional revenues.

In 2017 Tennis Australia expanded its media reach partnering with Roger Federer’s management company and businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann to create The Laver Cup.

The inaugural competition was played in September this year and live streamed throughout the world. This is following the decision two years ago to begin producing their own television feeds, giving them the ability to create customised product for specific global markets, in turn transforming the value of their international media rights.

They too are on the path to ensuring their code is future proofed and agile enough to respond to the ever changing media landscape. These initiatives are representative of the appetite for bespoke and fresh content delivered on social platforms, mainstream media and digital channels.

Content is king

As Bill Gates famously said in 1996 - content is king. This early prediction is no more true than today.

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting … the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment,” he famously said.

 “I expect societies will see intense competition-and ample failure as well as success-in all categories of popular content-not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and on-line communities devoted to major interests.”

It has evolved to more than that. If content is king, then content, distribution, and integrated experience across multiple platforms is king, queen - the whole chessboard.

Australia’s sporting organisations, bodies and clubs are leading the way in thinking about optimising their assets and the long term success of their clubs and codes.

Compare this with traditional retailing. Retailers across the country are increasingly realising an integrated offering alongside bricks and mortar is important. Whilst dynamic retailers are becoming more agnostic as to where sales are made, the live experience and optimisation of large physical assets is still an important part of the plan.

Build it and they will come

In early 2018 the $A1.6 billion, 60,000 capacity Perth Stadium in Western Australia will open, investment in Melbourne. Olympic Park, home to the Australian Open, will also expand as Victoria continues to build the area into a world -class precinct.

Melbourne Racing Club and Moonee Valley Racing Club are both well advanced on redevelopments and master plans which individually optimise their physical land assets.

Late last year the Australian Football League took ownership of Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, a diversified multi-purpose entertainment asset in its own right.

Utilising vast physical assets all these organisations they are broadening their scope. With multi-functional complexes and grandstands, entertainment assets, property developments and urban community centers, the broader economy and importantly their core businesses all benefit.

Behind all this is still a demand for live sports and entertainment, but increasingly a more integrated and omni-channel offering is required. These groups are now leveraging these assets and integrating and monetising new and emerging digital assets, better connecting the physical to the digital and beyond.

They are meeting their customers where their customers want to be met, on an ever increasing daily basis with tailored and segmented content, vertically integrated experience offerings (music, arts, wagering, ticketing, food, benefit streamlining etc), expanding into new markets, creating new sources of cash flow, maximising media rights, corporate sponsorship and wagering deals and reaching new audiences on an ever increasing number of channels, platforms and experiences.

The winners will integrate with exceptional end-to-end fan and customer experience, tailored and segmented offerings on numerous levels across varying platforms. They will reach beyond their core product in order to support their core product harnessing technology, enhanced customer data analytics and emerging technologies.

This product differentiation and segmentation will avail enhanced negotiations across free to air, pay-tv and digital media rights.

The entertainment, lifestyle, and tourism thematic, particularly in Australia, is encouraging and our biggest sports and entertainment organisations are leading the way.

Ben Volkering is Executive Director ANZ Corporate and Sports, Racing & Wagering Specialisation Lead 

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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