SBD/March 30, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

MJC Creates "Kegasus" To Promote Preakness In Latest Controversial Ad Campaign

Kegasus campaign follows last year's "Get Your Preak On" effort
The Maryland Jockey Club yesterday unveiled its marketing campaign for the May 21 Preakness Stakes, and the "centerpiece" is Kegasus, a "centaur with a nipple ring, body hair and ample beer gut," according to a front-page piece by Jill Rosen of the Baltimore SUN. The campaign seeks to reassure "young people that this year's infield festivities will indeed be rowdy, raunchy and booze-soaked," and the Preakness will be spreading the "hard-partying message on television, radio and social media outlets that cater to the 21- to 40-year-olds the race hopes to reach." The campaign, developed by Elevation Ltd., DC, was "already garnering criticism Tuesday for being tasteless and encouraging binge drinking." Maryland state Delegate Pat McDonough said, "It's infantile, foolish, and it creates a really negative image of horse racing, Preakness and the track. Why are we basing an image promotion on alcohol consumption?" McDonough is "dismayed that the advertising ... portrays the event as 'a kegger for sororities and fraternities.'" But MJC President & COO Tom Chuckas indicated that an "over-the-top figure like Kegasus is just the thing to get young people fired up" for the race. Chuckas: "It talks their language. We have never hidden the fact that we want people to come to the infield and party." Baltimore-based Carton Donofrio Partners Associate Creative Dir Brian Eden said that the campaign with its "outrageous central character" is the "sort of thing that creates 'social capital,' meaning, certain young men will likely get points for looking cool when they share Kegasus bits with their Facebook friends." Rosen notes the MJC last year used the "Get Your Preak On" slogan to promote the race. MJC officials last year also "announced cheaper tickets, hipper bands and a bikini contest -- all of which they'll bring back this year" (Baltimore SUN, 3/30).

In Baltimore, Andy Green wrote under the header, "Maybe 'Get Your Preak On' Wasn't So Bad." The race's theme this year is "Be Legendary," which is "innocuous enough by itself, but truly bizarre when wrapped around the creation of a new character, Kegasus, a centaur supposedly born of Preaknesius, the made-up god of thoroughbred racing, and a diner waitress from Ellicott City named Shelly." Kegasus and the "Get Your Preak On" campaign "for better or worse ... show that the Jockey Club can be creative when it wants to be and can successfully reach out to a broad, younger demographic at least one time a year." Green: "If the owners of Maryland's tracks took the energy they've devoted to promoting the infield and chasing slot machines to marketing their core business, who knows what they might achieve?" (, 3/29).
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