Op-ed: Kick up for racing

Picture this… it’s Sunday afternoon, you’re at a friend’s BBQ and are introduced to their cousin, Jacob. He seems friendly, and soon the conversation moves into “What do you do for work?”, “What do you do for fun?” or “What did you do yesterday?”.

And undoubtedly, your response involves a mention of Everest Day.

Jacob stops talking and shifts his eye contact away. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, and you know what’s coming.

“I don’t support horse racing…”

Ah yes – we have encountered an ‘anti’.

A common, awkward chat

It is a situation that everyone involved in horse racing – either as a professional, investor or passionate fan, has likely found themselves in at one stage or another, and increasingly more frequently in the last decade: a social encounter with someone loudly and proudly against horse racing.

The likelihood of occurrence is closely correlated to whether your core circle of family and friends are in the industry too, and your age. If you haven’t met a ‘Jacob’ it’s because your social network is probably dominated by horse racing participants.

So, how does this awkward exchange now proceed?

Over an extended, rather tense pause, you consider your options. You can either:

a) Down your beer and leave to talk to Richard about yesterday’s quaddie,

b) Raise your voice to explain that he has no idea what he is talking about, or

c) Ask him what his reasons for not supporting the industry are.

Although it can feel like a not-so-mild form of torture, we need to start choosing option C.

Because unless we, as industry participants, know what information (or misinformation) is shaping the views of the antis – a sector of society that is getting larger and larger every year – we cannot attempt to address the underlying issue and influence their opinion using real facts and stories from the industry we are so passionate about.

Just last weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote an interesting – and nicely balanced – article about why Gen Z are finding horse racing a difficult industry to understand.

Like it or not, this is the culminating impact of new expectations by modern society, and as we head into Cup Week, we’re about to hear a whole lot about it. One way we can get real and address it, is to pick up the conversation with the uneducated and inform them, not by ignoring them.

Relentless defending can be hard to do – not for our lack of passion or belief in the goodness of the industry, but due to poor access to accurate information and specific statistics to refute sensationalist material, so often based on lies, yet which gains more and more momentum each year.

One of the primary pitfalls of the digital era is that shocking content is highly shareable without any accountability for the truth. A lot of information spread by racing industry activists and the hate squad is simply untrue, yet access to accurate facts often isn’t at our fingertips fast enough to form a quality response.

And if we don’t interact, the only ‘facts’ the everyday Australian is exposed to is that of the animal activist who is using sensationalised material, incorrect figures and distorted perspectives to influence those who do not know much at all about horse racing.

Equipping our army with information

Last year, the team at Kick Collective – a Sydney-based marketing agency which works exclusively with horseracing clients – was particularly upset and frustrated after Melbourne Cup Day.

We felt exhausted having spent the day trying to defend our industry to people who were passionately against it, knowing their arguments were based on information that was patently untrue and seeing how much it was influencing others who simply had no idea.

The problem was, while we unequivocally knew from personal and professional experience that their ‘facts’ were, in fact, false, we found that retaliating with a highly agitated, “That’s just not true!”, didn’t at all help change their perspective or anyone listening.

We didn’t have an articulate, well-researched punchy response, based on accurate information and data, ready to roll off the tongue. If we wanted that reply, we had to trawl through hours of scientific papers, vet journals and industry fact books to find the information – if it had been published at all.

The Kick team became passionate to win back a share of voice against the antis, so we put our heads together to come up with a practical solution.

Kick Up was born

Over the last year, we’ve been working on a resource to help people kick up for racing.

The goal of Kick Up is to craft responses to the most common lies spread about racing. Our responses needed to be well-researched and based on validated references and/or scientific papers, and distilled into palatable graphics, videos, tweets and blogs, that can be easily accessible mid-conversation at a BBQ, short enough to respond on Twitter or eye-catching enough to grab attention on Instagram.

We have taken the propaganda materials spread by anti-racing groups and crafted responses to their inaccurate and sensationalistic content as an antidote resource that can allow open-minded individuals to form a perspective based on a balance of information.

We are launching with content to begin equipping our army of industry ambassadors with answers to the most common concerns the public has about horse racing.

But we don’t have all the answers, and this journey is just beginning.

When we don’t have access to the right information to answer an important question about our industry, we will push those in charge until we get the data required.

And we can’t put lipstick on a pig. In areas where our industry needs to set higher standards in animal welfare or integrity, we’ll push to find out what’s being done to improve it and help drive important change.

But in order to grow this impact and win back share of voice, we will need your help in three ways:

1. Plagiarise, with pride – steal our stuff! We have made this content for you to download, share and regurgitate as widely as possible. Give it to your mums and cousins who support horse racing because you do (and they know “you wouldn’t be involved in an industry that is cruel”), so they can respond to the antis in their world. The point of Kick Up is to give you the tools to engage comfortably with the uneducated or misinformed, knowing the information you’re referencing is based on research.

2. Tell us things! Have you been in a frustrating conversation with someone spouting mistruths about the industry? Instead of getting annoying, get informed! Be curious about and question what their opinions on horse racing were formed on – then tell us via the website form. It’s only when we know what mistruths are being spread that we can actively produce content to address them.

3. Empower our mission! Kick Up is a not-for-profit with the resources to create this content provided by the in-house team at Kick Collective burning the midnight oil. But you can help increase our impact. Becoming a sponsor will allow us to allocate resources entirely to Kick Up and ramp up our impact. Helping with resources and research will also be invaluable, if that’s your area of expertise.

I believe 99 per cent of horse racing participants care passionately about the health, safety and welfare of the horses we breed and race each day. I also believe we are just as passionate about the future of our industry continuing as the antis are about ending it.

Imagine if all 46,221 attendees at Everest Day on Saturday had a place to go to find true information about horse racing, then shared that truth and other positive horse racing stories with their networks who know very little about our industry.

That’s Kick Up’s goal.

This movement will be thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking the same outcome.

It’s time to kick up for the industry we all love, by creating a movement and changing the conversation.