Thoroughbred racing is hugely popular in Japan because the Japanese Racing Association markets the sport better than any other governing body, and one of its key engagement tools is its horse mascot, Turfy.

Japanese company Sanrio’s best-known character is Hello Kitty, but one of the global phenomenon’s friends is Turfy, which Sanrio designed to promote thoroughbred racing in Japan. Turfy’s website, Turfyland, features some really cool stuff for fans of all ages, including desktop wallpapers to brighten up your screens. And Turfy’s presence extends far beyond the digital world; he is ubiquitous on racecourses, with venues such as Tokyo and Nakayama having atmospheres akin to theme parks, free activities aimed at informing, educating and entertaining patrons and gift shops that celebrate the sport’s equine and human champions.

Thoroughbred racing’s social licence is under increasing threat in several countries, including Australia, because many members of Generation Y, Generation Z and Generation Alpha view the sport as cruel and nothing more than a vehicle for gambling. Australian officials could do a lot worse than turn to the JRA for advice as to how to get the general public, particularly women and kids, on their side.

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