Like a lot of people, I don’t give a crap about horse racing. But when the Preakness comes up with creative yet controversial ad campaigns like “Get Your Preak On” in 2010 and “Kegasus” this year, I’m paying attention. And when attendance grows from 77,850 in 2009, to 95,760 in 2010 (+23%, but partially because of beer was allowed on the infield again) to 107,398 this year (+12), this makes a marketer pretty happy.
The Sport of Kings is dying and the Preakness understands that. They identified the need to stop “doing what’s always been done” – catering to old people who wear funny hats and drink bourbon – and targeted a younger, more diverse crowd who chugs beer. They’ve caused an uproar among critics and horse racing purists, yet they’ve increased attendance and have become relevant once again. This is an amazing example of understanding the situation and being proactive to address it, even if it ruffles a few feathers. I can’t wait to see what the marketing folks at Pimlico come up with next year.