OLG wants to democratize horse racing

The crown corp is focusing on the excitement of the track to counter perceptions that the sport is for high society types.

Paradoxically, horse racing has to counter misconceptions it’s both snooty and seedy, and a new campaign by Ontario Racing and OLG, is designed to get a broader base of people interested in it.

“Welcome to The Track” is a collab between Ontario Racing, the governing body for Horse Racing in Ontario, together with the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG), positioning the “Sport of Kings” as an action-packed, exhilarating spectacle that’s fun for anyone.

Glen D’Souza, ECD at Forsman & Bodenfors, which created the campaign, says it is meant to capture what’s special about the track, the jockeys, the horses, and the crowds to make people feel welcome, and touching on the emotion generated by horseracing.

“Welcome to The Track” is an integrated multimedia effort, with TV and online video, with OLG AOR MediaCom on the buy. In addition to showcasing the poetry in motion of pounding hoofs, the creative also features a more diverse, younger crowd than would be expected drinking the spectacle in.

According to Andrew Carty, head of strategy at Forsman & Bodenfors, one challenge is that the broader public perceives horseracing as either something that needs a fancy hat accessory (like those seen at the Kentucky Derby) or a hobby favoured by gamblers.

“We are trying to get people to the experience, as we have been stuck at home,” Carty says, adding that people’s senses have been dulled by how rote and routine everyday life has become. “Welcome to the Track” and the visceral nature of horseracing is meant to be the antithesis of that.

The campaign launches this week to coincide with the start of the horse racing season and draw attention to the 15 tracks that dot Ontario, and will be in market until the fall.

As of April 2016, the OLG assumed responsibility for administering funding and monitoring, as well as supporting the horse racing industry with its gaming and marketing expertise. Its end-goal of making the industry financially self-sustaining is a tall order for an enterprise that has seen wagering on a protracted decline and not keeping up with the population growth of Ontario, according to a 2019 Ministry of Finance report.

According to Carty, however, horseracing viewership numbers during the pandemic stayed constant and did not have a drop-off, with a trend line similar to that of the NBA.