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Gangnam Style provides a perfect opportunity for the Spring Carnival – but will it be used effectively?

October 3, 2012

If you haven’t been swept up in the Gangnam Style craze, you are obviously living under a rock. To acquaint yourself, watch the following video, which has been viewed more than 340 million times worldwide:

Hopefully, you get the gist. Korean rapper Psy’s hit may be unintelligible to us for the most part (apart from “hey, sexy lady” and “baby baby”, as well as the “oppa Gangnam Style” chorus), but it is not the words which have made this the king of all internet phenomena. Instead, it is the hilarious horse-riding dance which has captivated audiences.

And boy, has it captured public imagination! Not only has it been viewed more than 340 million times and counting on Youtube, but it has hit number 1 in 11 countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom.

For people my age, we’ll be telling our kids about those random dances everyone did – the Macarena, the Nutbush and Gangnam Style. Would it be Gangnam Style or the Gangnam Style? A matter of semantics, really.

Anyway, what does Gangnam Style have to do with horse racing?

Well, if you haven’t made the link yet, Psy’s comical dance resembles a person on horseback. I call it comical, because I laugh every time I see it. Some will find it very serious, but either way, it is a lot of fun.

So why has this not been used as a spring carnival marketing tool so far? It seems the timing is fortuitous.

Surely Gangnam Style, if used effectively, would be a more relevant tool for the Spring Racing Carnival than it would be for, say, Big Brother (which has used the dance for promotion this week).

What I’d love to see is a large group of dancers – around 150 or so (maybe 151 for the number of Melbourne Cups?) – breaking out into the Gangnam Style dance in Federation Square in Melbourne.

I’d take it one step further, though.

Imagine, before a race like the Cox Plate or the Melbourne Cup, if you had dancers in the silks of horses that have previously won the race. Or, better yet, have them in the silks that will be worn in the feature race! Imagine them all doing the Gangnam Style dance. Now, wouldn’t that be a great image for racing?

But, that’s not all. Imagine everyone on course joining in! Seriously, could there be a better image for racing? I doubt it.

Every year, as the pre-race entertainment is announced, it is posited as “a tribute to the jockeys” or “a tribute to the champions” or something along those lines. I remember, before the 2007 Melbourne Cup, Christopher Cross performed “Ride Like The Wind” for the jockeys. I love the song, but surely Gangnam Style provides a stronger link than Ride Like The Wind?

Of course, the traditionalists would be up in arms, decrying the infiltration of pop culture into racing. But it is a move that is long overdue, something that is happening slowly.

Certain raceclubs are ahead of the game. In particular, the Melbourne Racing Club is making headway towards trying to expand their feature days, as demonstrated by the booking of Adam Lambert to close out Caulfield Guineas Day. Googling Adam Lambert Caulfield Guineas will bring up a number of posts from young kids attending their first raceday in order to see their idol.

By embracing pop culture, racing keeps itself relevant.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm advocate of keeping the horses at the centre of attention. They are the stars of the show, providing an endless array of storylines to keep us racing fans entertained.

But racing needs to look beyond its own community and towards attracting those potential racing fans.

There is a very good opportunity lurking within the next month with Gangnam Style. Let’s hope it is used to its full potential.

Knowing racing administrators, though, we are probably looking at 2045 before it is used in any means as a racing promotion. Let’s hope they are not that ancient.

NOTE: The Australian Financial Review is reporting Max Markson is in negotiations to get Psy back to Australia for the Melbourne Cup. Let’s hope it happens! As long as there are back up dancers in the silks of the runners…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    October 3, 2012 7:05 am

    Sept 21-

  2. Ryano permalink
    October 3, 2012 11:06 am

    I agree completely. It’s as good as it gets for marketing free kicks.

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