SBJ/August 22 - 28, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

Galloping to a store near you: Kentucky Derby merchandise

Churchill Downs Inc. has signed a five-year deal with Licensing Partners International LLC in a bid to bring more national distribution to its Kentucky Derby branded products, including T-shirts, hats and mint julep glasses.

The new licensing agreement will cater to horse racing fans across the country.
Officials at Churchill Downs and Licensing Partners International would not provide financial details of the deal. Atlanta-based LPI counts the PGA Tour and the Canadian Football League among its clients. LPI is the sister company of Collegiate Licensing Co., the licensing agency that represents more that 200 colleges and the NCAA.

Louisville, Ky.-based Churchill Downs has had success bringing its licensed products to major retailers in the Louisville area, but officials of the racetrack company want to expand sales of licensed product nationally, with hopes of starting in time for the 2006 Kentucky Derby in May.

“We have saturated the market locally — local Wal-Marts, local Krogers and in drugstores like Walgreens,” said Tobey Roush, Churchill director of sales and licensing. “We anticipate that LPI can take that to [retail] chains on a national level and they can grow it in a phased process.”

LPI President Wesley Haynes said of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill brands: “We do think [they have] been undermarketed. The event and the sport have a unique place in what we think are a lot of Americans’ hearts.”

Haynes said that horseracing fans around the country who can’t make it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May regularly hold Kentucky Derby parties in their homes. Haynes wants to find distributors for Kentucky Derby products for parties all over the country so that fans “can be as close to the event as possible.”

Although LPI and Churchill officials are still studying which products to offer first, party hats, party paper products and mint julep glasses are a possibility, he said. Churchill’s mint julep glasses, which display the logo of that year’s Derby and the names of the previous winners, are collectors items, and Churchill sold about 600,000 of the glasses last year.

Haynes said he thinks the Churchill brand has “a life outside of that one weekend in May.”

LPI has helped the PGA Tour find partners to create a line of PGA Tour-branded upscale home products, including furniture, lighting, floor coverings and wallpaper. Haynes said that LPI and Churchill officials will be exploring the possibility of creating similar products for Churchill.

Tyrone Tubbs, Churchill vice president of sales, said, “Over the term of our relationship with LPI, we really want to grow the mind-set of our customers as it relates to our licensed product from an event product to more of a lifestyle product.”

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