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Volume 20 No. 42
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Plugged In: Kristin Warfield, Churchill Downs

Kristin Warfield is vice president of partnerships for Churchill Downs Inc., where she oversees marketing relationships with the iconic racetrack’s corporate partners such as Yum!, Pepsi, Ram and others, as well as overall marketing initiatives for the home of the Kentucky Derby. The track has spent millions in recent years on new VIP areas for the event, which draws in excess of 160,000. Now, Churchill Downs is looking to expand its brand globally.

Our goal with the Derby, we’ve tapped out on-site attendance. … So growth of our brand is going to come from off-site eyeballs. And yes, America is part of that, but the rest of the world is part of that, too. Awareness and enthusiasm around the Derby throughout the entire globe is important to us. Whatever that leads to, is it licensed merchandise, is it a worldwide view of sponsorship, is it, eventually, special travel packages? We are exploring all of that.

Churchill going global: We are looking at United Arab Emirates, Japan, Australia and Europe — and Europe in a very broad sense. Horse racing is a big deal in many different countries in Europe. Our goals globally are multifaceted, so, yes, we would like to see more international horses running in the Derby, which is why we created the Japan road to the Kentucky Derby. Yes, we would love to see broadcasts distributed more widely. And NBC has been a great partner in helping us to accomplish that goal over the last two years, and our mutual intent is to continue to grow that distribution. Yes, we would like to see higher inbound international tourism and see more of our Kentucky Derby guests come from outside the United States.

On digital growth: If you are not mobile-enabled, you are missing a large part of the market because the world likes to do things on a 2-inch-by-3-inch screen and you have to change with the times. We have changed our website to make it much more mobile friendly, and we are also very active on all different forms of social media. You will see some exciting things from Snapchat and things like that coming out. We have an ever-growing Facebook and Twitter page. We have a very high engagement rate and a low drop-off rate, so we are using those mechanisms to communicate with our fan base on a consistent and frequent basis.

A story you’re watching: My favorite current non-horse racing story I am watching is whether or not the NBA comes to Louisville. There’s lots of opinions on that, but I personally think it would be an exciting thing to see an NBA team come here to Kentucky. … We’ve got a minor league baseball team. We’ve got a huge following for college athletics between U of L and U of K, and we have Churchill, which is great. But you have to drive to Cincinnati or Nashville or Indianapolis to go to a major sports league event.

— Liz Mullen