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Volume 26 No. 207
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Horse Racing Selling Style As Way To Attract Crowds To Track

Celebs Like Marissa Miller
Help Racing Attract Women

Selling "less sport and more style" is the "winning ticket at the racetrack these days, as the horse racing industry is trying to reinvest itself in an effort to attract new, younger and female fans," according to David Zurawik of the Baltimore SUN. TV shows are "emphasizing the people as much as the horses, while the major races themselves are being recast as lifestyle events rather than just competitions." Maryland Jockey Club President & COO Tom Chuckas: "The racing model that was in place over the past 40 years needed to be redefined. Racing can still be the centerpiece, but you need other activities and events going on in conjunction with it to draw a new and younger demographic. We've been trying to work toward that goal over the last year or two." Zurawik noted the Kentucky Derby, "using a cable TV contest with hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes and a TV series that built up" to the race, "enjoyed its largest television audience in 21 years, with 16.5 million viewers." The audience Churchill Downs Inc. "went after first was women" in a strategy crafted by CDI President & CEO Bob Evans. Evans saw data from NBC Sports that showed the Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics and the Derby are the "only three major sporting events that have more female viewers than male." NBC Senior VP/Strategic Marketing, Promotions & Communications Mike McCarley: "When you dig beneath the demographics ... you see there are things that are inherent in major horse races that appeal to women that aren't inherent in other major sports events." Bravo, a "channel with a large female audience," covered the Kentucky Oaks for the first time last year, and CDI VP/Communications Liz Harris said that the TV audience for the event "more than doubled, to 49 percent from 21 percent." Zurawik noted Chuckas, "talking the same 'lifestyle' talk,  ... emphasizes the upgrade this year in music, food and fashion" for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, and "stresses women-oriented events." Preakness officials are hoping to attract a new audience "to events Friday and Saturday at Pimlico with a mix of lifestyle-oriented productions and edgier, youth-targeted promotion" (Baltimore SUN, 5/9).

MJC Credits "Get Your Preak On" Advertising
Campaign For Increase In Preakness Ticket Sales

GETTING THEIR PREAK ON: BLOODHORSE.com's Tom LaMarra noted more than a week before Saturday's Preakness, ticket sales "were up 25% and are expected to increase" this week, and the MJC "cites the interest in its 'Get Your Preak On' advertising campaign in the greater Baltimore area." The campaign is "all over billboards, bus stop posters, social networking sites, and radio stations." Chuckas: "The racing industry as a whole has been criticized for not promoting, not advertising, and not being on the cutting edge. It has also been criticized for not targeting a younger demographic. This ad campaign was about getting a boost -- a shot of adrenalin" (BLOODHORSE.com, 5/10). In Baltimore, Kevin Cowherd noted "everywhere you go, there are signs urging folks to 'Get Your Preak On.'" But he wrote, "What better way to revive the sport than with a sleazy ad campaign that plays on a sexually suggestive hip-hop song?" The campaign "has to be one of the most pathetic marketing ploys ever devised," and it "shows you how desperate the Maryland Jockey Club is to restore the party atmosphere to the infield after the big drop-off in attendance at last year's Preakness" (Baltimore SUN, 5/10).