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Harness racing trots into the 21st century with new website and online contest

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Anyone who has ever been to a harness racing event will notice that it might not be the most modern or advanced form of racing out there. While there are many good things to be said for maintaining tradition, the attendance at the races is a good indicator that something must be done in order to increase the fanbase. In order to help provide greater awareness of and engagement with the sport of harness racing to current and new fans, the United States Trotting Association (“USTA”), in partnership with social consultancy, Converseon and key industry constituents, recently launched a new socially-powered, consumer-facing website, The Harness Racing Fan Zone.

The Harness Racing Fan Zone is an innovative new, online content hub designed for current and potential new fans and owners to “see, share, connect and play” through the power of social media. The mission of the Fan Zone is not to replace current industry websites or marketing initiatives but to serve as a key central platform that will help unify, amplify and positively brand the sport.

“The Fan Zone is designed to meet the increasing demands and expectations of a new generation of digitally and socially-savvy consumers who have grown accustomed to key features that let them become not just spectators to a particular sport, but active digital participants,” said Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President and CEO of the USTA. “The Fan Zone now provides harness racing with a new ‘major league’ consumer experience that fully leverages social media for fans, potential fans, owners and sponsors. We expect this to be a key resource for racetracks, large and small, and other related groups to better amplify and support their marketing efforts."

The new website allows fans to deeply engage with the sport via social media functionality, videos, photos, plugins and more. It interconnects with other key social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vimeo, YouTube, Vine, Instagram and more to help create a more comprehensive Fan Zone presence for the sport.

Fan interaction is also highlighted through real time conversations about the sport that fans can listen, share or join in. In another part of the Fan Zone, visitors can upload their photos/videos and stories to be featured on the site. It also provides a place for socially-active fans to sign up and become part of the sport's Ambassador Program. Via the Ambassador Program, fans can win rewards, visibility, and points for helping to spread the word about the sport.

The website also attempts to show fans the personalities and stories behind the names by celebrating the owners, fans, and horseman involved in the sport that make it what it is. It also allows individual tracks and industry groups to be profiled through their own pages which are linked to the main site.

As with any racing, it wouldn't be possible without sponsors. The website also provides key marketing and sponsorship support assets.

The site also attempts to make it easier for track owners and industry insiders to promote the sport, including their current 100 Top Moments in Harness Racing contest. The contest, which is being done in partnership with the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, allows fans from around the world to upload and share their favorite personal harness racing moments for industry recognition and a chance to be become part of the sport’s history. The winning top moments will be celebrated in a special exhibit at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, Goshen, New York.

“The sport of harness racing has a history second-to-none,” says Rob Key, CEO of Converseon. “Yet some of our greatest moments are hidden away in drawers and attics. This contest allows participants to dig through their archives, dust off their memories and share their stories in a new and exciting ways. This is a chance to celebrate those moments, and become part of the history at one of the sport’s greatest jewels, the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame.”

The contest, which which ends June 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm EDT, consists of five different categories: Horses, People, Races, Places, as well as a special “Heart” category designed to celebrate some of the personal stories that exhibit extraordinary determination and courage. Voting will be split between fans and a five-person judging committee consisting of a representative from the USTA, The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, the Hambletonian Society, United States Harness Writers Association and sport historian Dean Hoffman. The committee will oversee final judging.

“Social media provides us with a powerful new and innovative platform to drive forward our core mission of collecting, preserving and sharing the incredibly rich history of Harness Racing,” said Janet Terhune, Director of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. “Through this exciting digital initiative, fans can become key contributors by sharing their stories and helping us pass our history to a new generation of fans. We encourage everyone to participate as we hope to uncover new stories, photos and moments that have not yet been archived or recognized. No story is too big or too small.”

The United States Trotting Association, located in Columbus, Ohio, is a not-for profit association of Standardbred owners, breeders, drivers, trainers, and officials, organized to provide administrative, rulemaking, licensing and breed registry services to its members.

Launched in September, 2013, the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative is a partnership between the United States Trotting Association, the social media consultancy, Converseon, and key industry groups to help drive marketing innovation and engagement with current and new fans for the sport. The initiative’s mission is to help support key racetracks, industry groups and help provide foundational support and a common, “best practice” framework by leveraging social technologies and platforms and strategies to help positively brand the sport of harness racing and generate greater awareness, visibility and engagement with a new generation of fans.

Soon, this and other sorts of articles on equine racing will be easily found at the West Palm Beach Horse Power Examiner page. Until then, be sure to subscribe to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner, and keep track of your favorite racers, no matter how many (or how few) wheels they may or may not race on. If you're a motorsports fan, and know of an event, team, or person you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways, HOAs, elections, and restaurants.

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