The racing goes on – The Hong Kong Jockey Club forges ahead with resilience and imagination

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) won three gold and three silver awards in The Loyalty and Engagement Awards 2021 with its 2020 Season Opening and LONGINES Hong Kong International Races campaigns. The applause should go to everyone who helped keep the sport running under the tough challenge of COVID-19.

Stands with no cheering crowds, a Season Opening like no other
The 2020 racing season started under strict social distancing requirements, with attendance substantially reduced. With the grandstands remaining empty and silent, the challenge was to find alternative ways to engage fans and make sure they could still feel a meaningful connection to horse racing.

The Season Opening campaign started with the Jockey Workout Challenge to build awareness. Champion jockey Zac Purton posted his exercise routine online and tagged other jockeys and racing professionals. This viral message from the world of horse racing attracted nearly a million views, spreading to Japan and beyond. Racing fans were further engaged through interactive live chats with star jockeys and trainers, who usually have a more distant relationship with their fans.

As a final call, the traditional gong-striking ceremony was transformed into a hybrid model. A pre-recorded countdown video built a climax to the iconic gong-striking moment by the HKJC's chairman that announced the start of a new season.hkjc gong strikingThe HKJC successfully reimagined its lifestyle and entertainment events to respond to the pandemic, while effectively using social media strategies and influencers to reach a highly targeted audience. Turnover of some HK$1.4 billion was generated, representing a 6.8% increase on the Season Opening day despite a 95.8% drop in racecourse attendance.

The stage of world contenders – an international marquee event with creative use of technology
The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races is a highlight of the international horse racing calendar, featuring four Group 1 races in a single day. This year, the HKJC faced huge challenges to attract overseas top horses and jockeys under the evolving travel and social distancing regulations.

Strict isolation protocols prohibited the international jockeys from physically attending the usual pre-race activities. The absence of international media was another difficulty to be overcome. The HKJC held a series of video conferences and daily shows providing timely news to major racing channels worldwide, including Australia, the UK, South Africa, Germany and France. With the aid of innovative hologram technology, two British jockeys under quarantine at different locations were able to interact smoothly with the HKJC CEO and local jockeys virtually “in person”.hkjc snapshot 53.26 2020.12.11 11.59.21hkjc 201208 ijc special 045 cropThere is no question that this was an exceptionally difficult year for the HKJC in setting the stage for world-class horses and jockeys with the world watching on. But as CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges observed at the end of a highly successful event, “this is the ‘can-do’ spirit of Hong Kong and the playing-to-win spirit of the Jockey Club”.

This article is sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.