It's Time: Longines Signs Five-Year Deal To Sponsor Kentucky Oaks Race
The 139th Kentucky Oaks will be run Friday as the Longines Kentucky Oaks, under a five-year sponsorship agreement between Churchill Downs Inc. and the Swiss watchmaker. It is the first sponsorship for the Oaks, which draws crowds of more than 100,000 to Churchill Downs and features the best three-year-old fillies in the country running on the day before the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs and Longines officials did not reveal financial details of the agreement. Although the race will now be known as the Longines Kentucky Oaks, it is considered a presenting sponsorship and not a title sponsorship, said Churchill Downs VP/Partnerships Kristin Warfield. The Kentucky Derby signed its first presenting sponsorship with Yum! Brands in ‘06. That agreement was extended in ‘11 and runs through ‘15. Warfield has been looking for a partner for the Oaks since she was hired by Churchill in ‘09. “It’s been four years of very carefully searching for a partner that would be a good brand fit for the Kentucky Oaks and we are very particular about what we were looking for in a partnership,” Warfield said. “And we came close a couple of times, but did not consummate any relationship prior to this.” Churchill Downs in ‘09 rebranded Oaks day as Ladies Day, a social day featuring fashion -- women are encouraged to wear pink -- and benefits for women’s causes. The “elegance” of Longines and its status as a global brand with a long history were particularly attractive to Churchill Downs, Warfield said.
SIGNAGE ON STARTING GATES, FINISH LINE: Under the terms of the agreement, Longines will advertise on the telecast of the Kentucky Oaks, which is to be aired on NBC Sports Network on Friday. Additionally, Longines will have starting gate and finish line signage. Longines also will receive “race apparel” rights, which includes branding on the starting gate workers’ apparel and on the saddlecloths of the horses in the race. The Derby and Oaks were first run in 1875. Longines was founded in 1832 and is now owned by the Swatch Group. “Both our brand and the famous race boast a long and rich history,” wrote Longines VP & Head of Int’l Marketing Juan-Carlos Capelli in an e-mail. “Tradition means a lot to both organizations.” Longines became the first official watch and timekeeper of the Kentucky Derby in ‘11. That relationship will be extended through ‘17, concurrent with the Oaks sponsorship, as part of the new deal. “Being associated with the Kentucky Derby brings a great visibility to Longines and helps us to increase the brand awareness in the U.S. and all over the world,” Capelli said.