Following the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation's call for stakeholder groups within the industry to pursue compromise, "A New Way Forward" offers the opinions of five industry leaders over five different areas. If we can work together to move beyond that which has divided us for so long, the ideas presented in this series present a glimpse into a more prosperous future for the sport.
John Sikura is the president of Hill 'n' Dale Farm.
Communications and Marketing
By: John Sikura
There is no argument that our business is under threat and rapidly losing its place vying for entertainment dollars, new investors, on-track fans and most importantly, fighting negative imagery. We must undertake comprehensive reform on issues of medication, safety, support of retired thoroughbreds and uniformity of rules. No amount of marketing dollars can turn our ship without these subjects being addressed and compromises reached so that we can project a new image based upon action not rhetoric or blame of the other side.
Once achieved, it is imperative that a well-funded campaign commences to address these negative stereotypes of our business and reinvent ourselves to new and existing customers. This campaign cannot represent the point of view of one group or be seen within our industry as propaganda for a specific agenda. Rather, it must represent the best of what we are.
In order to be large in footprint, we would need annual funding from constituent groups that receive industry support each year. To start, both the Jockey Club and Breeders’ Cup have millions of dollars on hand derived from owners and breeders that should be put to work. Additional funding should come from the breeders, sales companies and veterinarians that make a living from our great sport.
Our fragmented approach on all things, including the promotion of our business, has been in the hands of organizations that protect their domain and present board-adopted positions and continuity, rather than change. We must have an ‘outside’ critique in order to better promote and market our sport. This mandate must be fully funded and not only deal with crisis management, but incubate positive reaction to thoroughbred racing and breeding through uplifting stories, mass coverage and prominence on all forms of media. This crucial mission must be led by a new vision in conjunction with industry-mandated changes that arm this new office with positive ammunition needed for this new message to resonate.
A centralized office must be created to advocate for and defend the daily interests of thoroughbred racing and breeding across all major platforms. Marketing, public affairs, press relationships, crisis management and official spokesperson duties would all funnel through this office giving us a singular and consistent message.
I hope we can all agree that an office specifically tasked to do the above, with adequate funding and impartiality, will go a long way to presenting our business in the best light. Knee jerk reactions to crises, with industry participants being the most vocal critics of our practices, is not the way forward. Neither is a win-at-all-cost attitude when concessions can bring real change. Orthodoxy to a rigid point of view has brought us to a point of irrelevance.