Attracting young people to any sport requires that sport to be compatible with their life experiences and not be passé.

Part of the challenge is that the task falls to executives who are often a generation or more older than the target audience. The Beloit College Mindset List, published annually since 1998, underscores why age differences and cultural perspectives matter.

The Beloit list depicts the worldview of current college freshmen. Most freshmen of 2013 were born in 1995 and are referred to as “digital natives.” This designation sounds promising for horse racing because the delivery system for the product is facilitated by the Internet, smartphones, and innovations like Trackus and 3-D animated replays.

Beloit College says, “For this generation of entering college students…Dean Martin, Mickey Mantle, and Jerry Garcia have always been dead” and the students aren’t likely to remember Bill Clinton as a sitting president.

To digital natives, GM brings to mind Genetically Modified, JAVA does not mean only a cup of coffee, and a chat usually does not involve talking. Favorite feature movies for 18-year-olds were usually computer-generated and driving somewhere has never required directions and a map in the glove box, just a GPS.

Consider a similar list pertaining to horse racing. Today’s freshmen weren’t alive to see Paul Mellon win his only Kentucky Derby. They were born the year Angel Cordero Jr. rode his last race and Cigar won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Laz Barrera, Eric Guerin, and C. V. Whitney were always deceased, and so were Easy Goer, Northern Dancer, and Secretariat. There has never been a time without simulcasting, exotic wagering, and advance deposit wagering.

Freshmen of 2013 have scant recollections of anything that occurred before the 21st century, and 9-11-01 took place when they were in the first grade. So waxing nostalgically about the year when D. Wayne Lukas won three Triple Crown races with two different horses won’t register with them.

“Digital natives” can best relate to a centuries-old sport like horse racing when it is wrapped in a comprehensive high-tech package.

Copyright © 2013 the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.