13 November 2008


On The Tonight Show, Jay Leno has a bit where he goes out into the street and asks, seemingly random people, basic questions like 'How many states are in the 48 contiguous U.S.?'*

Invariably, these poor bastards, desperate for their fifteen minutes, answer to the effect of 'Umm, I don't know. Seven?'...and No Child Left Behind gets additional funding.

Today, due to an obvious oversight, your intrepid reporter played stowaway on a conference call with Peter Rotondo Jr. and Peter Land of the Breeders' Cup and GbG, Railbird, Colin's Ghost, Foolish Pleasure, First Saturday and Superfecta(in absentia).

The meeting, with luck the first of many, proved informative and constructive. Your correspondent had nothing of value to add to the discussion (except, in a moment of spastic imbalance, to suggest that Sweet Catomine won the 2003 Juvenile Fillies) but several intriguing topics surfaced. The Distaff name change, saddle cloths, two day format and future venues were all discussed and the BC representatives made an honest effort of explaining the rationale behind their decisions.

We don't understand why it never occurred to your correspondent before but the Breeders' Cup is a brand and not the institution of racing itself. They are marketing their product, first and foremost, to the best of their ability and within the constraints of the market as they perceive it.

Mother Not Really, during long gone discussions, used to tell your daring scrivener that she would support his position when she a) agreed with it or b) didn't give a damn either way, and that is the basic rationale your dashing commentator adopted when backing the Take Back the Race Petition.

Then Mr. Land and Mr. Rotondo explained the criteria used to change the name.

Apparently, and your cub may have this wrong, referencing a marketing concept called unaided awareness, fewer than 5% of sports fans-not horse racing fans but just your everyday ESPN watching, fantasy football playing fans-knew about the Breeders' Cup, a week before the event last year.

After several polls and market surveys, they found the word Distaff to be perplexing to the general public. Then, given an explanation your gallant scribe still doesn't grasp, they tossed the idea for Filly and Mare because most people couldn't understand the difference and were confused by the concept. H.L. Mencken said 'Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.' and I think the folks at the BC decided to test his aphorism.

Horse racing is not an easy sport to understand, I get that; many a day at the track has found me looking at the form like my dog looks at a watch. I know there is a lot of jargon but some of these concepts are self explanatory.

I don't doubt the BC is just fighting the alligator closest to its ass on this one. They have a product fewer than 1 in 25 people, in that product space, could pick out of the proverbial line-up. They have their data and they indicate, sadly as in most things, targeting the lowest common denominator is the way to burgeon appeal. They, like Custer did, have a plan.

I just don't agree with the premise.

*The answer is 48


Anonymous said...

I thought the purple cape was genius!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info.

But... I am horse racing nut in my circle of friends and family. They know the difference between a filly and a mare, that only 3 yr olds race in the triple crown, that turf and dirt are serarate entities, etc. Because I talk about these things, and they listen because they love/like me. I get these otherwise uninterested in horse racing people to go to the track and learn a little about the sport.

It doesn't make any marketing sense to me to dumb down what makes the sport unique.

Despite a long relationship with a diehard Cub and Blackhawk fan, I don't know that much about those sports. But I don't see the NHL trying to pump up it's fan base by doing away with tradition. And the amount of info in the boxes of MLB games is so much more than odds, post postions, etc.

How does baseball grow fans? A person is taught about the game. How can horse racing grow fans? Changing the sport to suit the uninterested and alienating the existing fan base is really bad answer.

suebroux said...

So the BC's Big Idea was to market to the Blackhawk fans and other ESPN-cruising individuals who don't know anything about horse racing? Well, I guess my dad watched a couple of races - that's 1.

And you are correct, sir, that the BC shouldn't be making strives to acquire a brand new audience at this juncture; horse racing should be making concerted efforts throughout the year, but they're too busy building racinos and running their races at Retama.

BTW, Sweet Catomine won the 2004 Juvenile Fillies.

Wind Gatherer said...

Dana-Let's see if they run with it.

Anon-spot on

Sue-Of course she did. Only an unbalanced spastic would suggest that she won the '03 renewal during a conference call with BC execs.

Everybody knows Zenyatta won the '03 Juvenile Fillies.

Anonymous said...

They can "market" the sport all they want, but the best press is free. It will take a Derby winner who remains competitive beyond his 3YO season (and a strong rivalry sure won't hurt). Giacomo and Funny Cide couldn't quite get it done, but at least they tried! Translation: we need more gelding winners of the Derby!

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