Not in her wildest imagination did Dawnelle Mock think she would be one of the driving forces at The Meadows racetrack and in the harness racing industry.

Her work as the marketing director for the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association has not only caught the attention of those at the North Strabane Township track but across the country as well.

“The fact she came from a horse racing family always helps,” said Kim Hankins, executive director of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association. “We didn’t have to educate her. She did an internship at the Meadowlands and that was one of the big things for her.

“Dawnelle is a go-getter. She comes up with ideas, she implements them. She is driven and motivated. Dawnelle brings excitement and enthusiasm. She’s a great person and on-air personality.”

The 2012 Chartiers-Houston High School graduate has been involved with and passionate about harness racing since birth. Five years ago, she earned a degree in Marketing Management from Youngstown State University in Ohio.

After graduating, she made her move to the Meadowlands in N.J. with the internship in the marketing department.

She has not stopped since.

At the start of 2017, Mock became the social media director at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, where she grew up. That position quickly morphed into marketing director and in her mid-20s she is a respected force in the industry.

“When I graduated high school and even college, I wasn’t sure what I would do,” Mock said. “I knew I wanted a marketing job. I did the internship at the Meadowlands and that just worked into positions that I loved. It’s worked out far better for me than I had envisioned.”

As director of marketing for the MSOA, Mock recognizes that the only constant for harness racing is the ever-changing focus and strategies of the sport and industry as a whole.

She honed her marketing and promotional skills at Youngstown State’s Williamson College of Business Administration with a degree in marketing and a minor in Information Systems. Mock studied abroad in Stirling, Scotland, taking international business and finance classes.

She has been a member of the United States Harness Writers Association since January of 2016.

“We’ve taken different routes at The Meadows,” Mock explained. “We’ve done the traditional advertising. We’ve pushed hard to do stuff online and with social media. That has really grown and now we’re moving into digital media, which allows you to narrow the target audience.

“Everything is accessible online to the bettor.”

That strategy was essential during the pandemic. It’s a strategy likely to remain.

Mock’s contacts and forward-thinking approach has earned her high marks from her peers and associates.

“Dawnelle Mock is a curious, creative and innovative thinker who is adaptable and analytical,” said Jennifer Miele, whose family owns Billboards on Wheels, a transit advertising agency in western Pennsylvania. “She possesses every trait you need to have to be a marketing rock star.

“When our family-owned business, Billboards on Wheels, approached her about the idea of placing ads on transit buses throughout Western Pennsylvania, she rebranded and repositioned the MSOA – attracting thousands of new fans to the sport.

“I have watched her transform the delivery model to incorporate social, digital and streaming platforms that continue to catch the attention of the entire industry.”

Mock’s work and abilities helped her earn a prestigious award in 2019.

The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) recognized her as the 2019 Rising Star Award winner.

“Dawnelle is more than a hard worker,” said Ashely Eisenbeil, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association. “She loves the sport and wants others to see how exciting it can be. She has worked collaboratively with the PHRA to stage major events that bring new audiences to the track. She is always willing to work together to improve the fan experience.”

Added Lori Romaneti, MSOA marketing committee member: “Dawnelle has been exceptionally successful at making our sport more accessible and connected to new generations of fans. “She balances the wants and needs of our members with marketing initiatives that improve our profile tremendously.”

Mock appreciates the attention she has gained and the accolades from others in the industry

She is taking nothing for granted and cherishes her opportunity to work in an industry that has shaped her life.

“You don’t always get lucky to have a job that you love, especially in sports or a sport you love,” she said. “Harness racing is a sport I’m passionate about, I always have been. I think that having been in the industry this long makes you work all the harder and inspires you to do more.”

Mock’s Rising Star and the Breakthrough Award in 2019 surprised her. The awards recognize “up-and-coming stars” in harness racing, in the trainer/driver and non-trainer/driver categories.

Mock was selected for her initial three years at The Meadows, where she spearheaded the MSOA’s entrance into multiple digital platforms. She has led a number of successful charity events. She formed a partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

She served as the MSOA liaison with the operators of The Meadows’ racetrack for a number of successful promotions, which contributed to a six-percent rise in handle at the track, comparing 2017 with 2018.

Under Mock’s guidance, MSOA transitioned into the digital world, overseeing digital marketing and branding campaigns on YouTube, Equibase, AT&T Sportsnet, Facebook and several other outlets.

During the Covid-19 global pandemic, she produced a live stream the Adios show from the paddock that reached more than 50,000 fans in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries around the world.

“Dawnelle has really turned into a great on-air personality,” Hankins said. “She presents herself and the information in a very professional manner. She’s nationally acclaimed.

“She’s been a wonderful find for us and has done a fantastic job. She’s become a national figure.”

Hankins pointed to a time when John Campbell, Hall of Fame driver and president and chief executive officer of the Hambletonian Society invited Hankins to a meeting focused on social media.

“He asked Dawnelle to be there,” Hankins said. “We’re not the only one who recognizes her talents and insight. He told Dawnelle that he wanted her there because she’s among the leaders in social media for harness racing.

“She knows the industry and has contacts everywhere. Above all, she has a vision unlike what we imagined before. It’s been a fantastic time for her.”

All Horses, All the Time

Mock grew up in Somerset County. The family moved into the Chartiers-Houston School District, which helped grow her father Daniel’s small stable of Standardbreds.

“Horse racing has been in my blood my entire life,” Mock said. “I’ve always been around racing and horses. I can’t imagine not being around Standardbreds.”

Mock is the youngest of four children, including Daniel, Dennis, and Dana.

Her father came up with the name Dawnelle. Her mom, Lisa, is the lone family member without a “D” to start her first name.

Daniel and Lisa owned Standardbreds in Somerset before moving to close to The Meadows. Daniel was also a trainer. Dawnelle spent a great deal of time grooming horses.

Dana and her husband eventually took over the Mock operation and Dana has trained at The Meadows.

Dawnelle Mock has sophisticated the MSOA’s marketing department to the point that it goes beyond her exceptional work and includes consultants, media buyers – emphasizing digital platforms

Mock, however, is the centerpiece of the action and operation.

She has delivered Family Fun Night, food trucks, Weiner dog races and special ideas and entertainment for the Adios and week leading up to The Meadows main event.

On highly important race days, Mock has broadcast live via Facebook to preview each race.

She also can be seen in the Winner’s Circle, presenting awards, presenting checks to charitable organizations on behalf of the MSOA.

In the past, she has worked with the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association, developing the “The Driver Charity Challenge.”

That’s an event where one driver is paired with each of 10 area charities. The winningest driver presents a check to that charity.

Mock’s endless work has benefitted The Meadows and harness racing.

“Our handle has been spiking,” Mock said. “Our industry continues to provide countless jobs.

“The horse racing industry means the world to me. You know the old saying that you will never work a day in your life if you love your job. That’s me.”

While she works and finds ways to engage people on and off track, Mock said she will always push to bring as many people to the racetrack as possible.

“I think it is better when you can bring people to the paddock and personally interact with them,” Mock said. “The idea and essence of harness racing takes hold when one can see it up close and be a part of it and make it personal.

“Every year our events have grown. The handle for our on-track events has grown. Even handle overall has been increasing. But for the events, that’s what we’re looking at. If the handle increases each year, we’re moving in the right direction.”

With Mock in hand, The Meadows and industry are going in the right direction.


Original source credited to: The Observer-Reporter

Cover Photo by Chris Gooden

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