Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Guest Blog: Aqueduct Needs a Social Media Renaissance

by Carly Silver
In 2012, NYRA announced Saratoga’s first-ever Social Media Day, which took place on August 26. Many of those who “liked” the event on Facebook or followed the New York Racing Association (NYRA) on Twitter received free T-shirts that very day. Admittedly, there wasn’t much else to the “social” aspect of “Social Media Day” other than a few racing trivia questions and giveaways, but at least NYRA made an attempt to reach out to Saratoga race fans.

The same cannot be said for NYRA and Aqueduct, however. Other than a handicapping challenge in November 2012 and a few casual events, what has NYRA or Aqueduct done ecently to promote the historic track? Very little. The track itself is hard to get to by train--it takes quite a while on the New York A subway to get out to Aqueduct--but that’s not something that can change. What can be changed, however, is Aqueduct’s “just-schlep-out-here-and-it’ll-be-worth-it” approach.

The regrettable fact is, it’s not really worth the trip out to Aqueduct unless you’re a diehard racing fan, frequent gambler, or visiting the casino--or all three. The track itself is run-down--and NYRA can’t do much about that if it doesn’t have the funds to renovate it. There isn’t a cute town in the surrounding area that appeals to visitors, like Saratoga Springs. How can Aqueduct attract new
visitors, then, besides its free admission policy?

The answer is simple: through social media. Racing fans are more active on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest than ever before. Horses like Rachel Alexandra have their own Facebook pages, where fans comment up a storm about the Horse of the Year’s latest foal, and thousands follow the Tweets of Daily Racing Form columnists and Thoroughbred trainers. Just because racing is an old sport doesn’t mean its fans are behind the times. Why not capitalize on the existing online community that is passionate about racing and bring more fans to Aqueduct?

Let’s start with the basics. While NYRA has a good Twitter presence, beef up Aqueduct’s presence on Facebook and Twitter. Secondly, invite Tri-State Area racing fans--of which there are many--out to the track for fun events. Bring out fan favorites like jockey Jerry Bailey or trainer Allen Jerkens for a meet-and-greet event and autograph signing. Auction off signed photographs of champions that have won big at Aqueduct, like Damascus and Fusaichi Pegasus. Offer a photo in the winner’s circle to the first few who RSVP to a particular day’s worth of racing on Facebook.

Also, why not reach out to the Resorts World casino fans? They might not care about racing, but they do love to gamble. Cross-promotion in both venues would benefit both the casino and the track. Resorts World should promote pick-six and handicapping contests that would bring people over to the track from the slots.

These solutions are simple, but effective. By getting fans excited about racing --and Aqueduct--again, the Big A could have a renaissance on its hands.

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