RACING’S BID FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS

(This article is a longer version of “Racing Must Consider Younger ‘Worldviews,’ which appeared in the Blood-Horse, April 17, 2010. Reproduced by permission.)

The racing industry, particularly its racetracks, has struggled for years with making the sport more appealing to the younger generations. Like casinos, the over-50 demographic is where the main support comes from in terms of wagering.

The average age of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies is about 56 and the vast majority of executives in upper management are at least in their late forties. This means that top executives manage employees who are much younger than themselves. They also formulate marketing strategies for customers who are a generation or more removed. The resulting cultural divide can cause plenty of problems, even if, say, there is in-depth market research depicting the behavioral tendencies and preferences of teenage customers or patrons in their twenties. Reading about lifestyles in a report is not the same as understanding sufficiently to be able to craft appropriate corporate responses.

Fortune magazine recently wrote about the “generation gap” between older executives and their chronologically junior employees: “Texting, socializing, and working. Just how do they do it? It’s a question that confounds managers as they watch twentysomethings listening to music, checking Facebook, snacking, and working on 14 projects at once.” Patrizio Bertelli, the 63-year-old chief executive of Prada, the Italian fashion house, remarked to the Wall Street Journal about remaining cutting edge: “You have to watch young people—if you’re not updated with the world of today, then you may as well get the hell out of fashion.”

For the past 12 years, Beloit College in Wisconsin has published what it calls “the Mindset List.” The purpose is to depict the worldview of 18 year-olds as they start their post-secondary education. If you go online to Beloit.edu/mindset (or click here), you will be able to access a lengthy list that captures the worldview of the college class of 2013, who were typically born in 1991 (you can select any graduating class from 2002-2013). For instance, members of the class of 2013 “will have never used a card catalog to find a book” and “have never had to ‘shake down’ an oral thermometer.” For them, “rap music has always been mainstream; Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister; Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Rodenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.”

Whether you manage a farm, a bloodstock agency, a racetrack, a training stable, a veterinarian clinic, an equine law practice, or whatever, you have employees/associates and customers/clients. Their worldview is critical to your success. Grow out of touch and your enterprise will suffer accordingly. The difficulty with this caveat is that by the time people usually reach the upper-echelon of their organizations, their worldview is far more comprehensive and historic than that of the majority of employees and customers and thus they are apt to forget that their reality is not the only reality.

Copyright © 2010 The Blood-Horse

Comments

  1. I recently posted a feature on trainer Carolyn Costigan who is doing her part to engage youth in horse racing via a well-kept website, helmet cam during training and Twitter.

    Information and social interaction is key to keeping horse racing in the forefront for the younger generation. Hopefully more track folks will follow suit. NYRA has done a particularly good job with their behind-the-scene features.

    Great post.

    Keith

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