Peaked by 'Preak' Ad Campaign

It has been described as funny, eye-catching, irreverent, offensive, and sexually suggestive.

So which is it? Depends on your sense of humor—or lack thereof—and where your mind goes.

If it works on all those levels, it works—period.

More than a week before the May 15 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, ticket sales were up 25% and are expected to increase the week of the event. The Maryland Jockey Club cites the interest in its “Get Your Preak On” advertising campaign in the greater Baltimore area.

MJC president Tom Chuckas acknowledged the organization took criticism for banning carry-in booze a few years ago. The all-you-can-drink beer mug this year addresses some of that, but the ad campaign is about much more.

“The racing industry as a whole has been criticized for not promoting, not advertising, and not being on the cutting edge,” Chuckas said. “It has also been criticized for not targeting a younger demographic.

“This ad campaign was about getting a boost—a shot of adrenalin. The Pimlico facility has many facets—fine dining, the corporate village, the grandstand, and the infield—and at the end of the day, this campaign has people talking about the Preakness, and it’s not just the younger demographic.

“It has made other people take notice.”

“Get Your Preak On” is all over billboards, bus stop posters, social networking sites, and radio stations. It has been slammed by some for its suggestive nature and described as a “desperate” attempt by the MJC to return the infield to packed-house status.

So far it appears to be working, like it or not.

“The bottom line is the majority of responses, particularly from the younger demographic, have been very positive,” Chuckas said. “We’re definitely way ahead of 2009 sales, and we’re also ahead of 2008.”

Some get their “Preak” on by getting smashed in the infield or parading topless; others by spending an expensive afternoon in the dining room; many by hanging out in the grandstand handicapping and betting horses. That’s really the beauty of horse racing, and at a track the size of Pimlico, if you want to ignore the other elements, you can.

The second leg of the Triple Crown will still rule the day. At the very least, the not-so-politically-correct but edgy ad campaign drives home a message the industry sometimes forgets.

Horse racing is fun on many levels.

Bring it on. Or get it on. ... Whichever you prefer.

34 Comments

Leave a Comment:

David

One thing is for sure – catering to a dwindling segment whose attraction is the insider-betting thing is slow and certain death. If the Derby teaches anything it’s future success means less from an expended base, not more from old guys.

Many years ago I witnessed a “taste committee” trash a prospective Breeders’ Cup campaign for a certain mid-western market. It (the campaign) was good stuff and, yes, laughed out of the room.

A few years later other grumpy old men saw fit to deep six an NTRA campaign that was about the only connect a lot of young people would ever have to racing.

Goes to show if you fill the room with racing’s old guard and the consensus is that a campaign stinks, then go with it.

10 May 2010 10:20 AM
aspradling

Fascinating that marketing works. Just saying that I applaud the efforts for advertising to all people's and classes. Not just targeting the Owners/Breeders, or just the six digit money makers, but the fans and friends. Appealing to draw new fans to feed money into the betting pools and support for the industry.

A few other places/events could do this better.

10 May 2010 10:21 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

The industry needs to get it together. Get the younger generation to the track any way they can. Once you see your horse thundering down the stretch and giving you the win, even for a $2 bet you are hooked.

They need more giveaways. Free meals, free beers, and free betting tickets. The tickets are $2 to $20 pre-bet for the win for every horse on the card. How it could be fairly distributed I don't know. But I'm sure there is a way.

Then after they get more young people going to the track then they need to expand internet betting. There is a ton of money there that they haven't taken advantage of, missing a few golden opportunites with petty squabbling between factions.

But it's not too late. For me I only bet a lot when they show the horses well at every stage pre-race. Keeneland did great this spring. I hope they don't change and I'll be going all out in the fall online at Keeneland.

10 May 2010 12:18 PM
The_Knight_Sky racing blog

Dr Drunkinbum wrote:

Get the younger generation to the track any way they can.

Once you see your horse thundering down the stretch and giving you the win, even for a $2 bet you are hooked.

________________

The only thing the younger set will see from the infield is a lot of people passed out in front of them--or if they're still sober, lifting their tops up.

This is the wrong type of crowd to woo. And the dwindling attendance in Maryland over the years reveals that this is a one-day deal--not a long term plan  

The infield crowd does not go to watch the spectacle of horse racing. They go to make a spectacle of themselves.

10 May 2010 1:41 PM
KHYLE

One of the best one-liners ever to promote a certain horseracing event! Short, catchy, edgy, modern, fresh--this is something that this industry needs to attract markets of varying types. What more, it provokes, whether they like it or not! Since sales are up, everybody GET YOUR PREAK ON on May 15, 2010!!!

10 May 2010 1:45 PM
Bill Daly

One thing for sure, the ad campaign has gotten people's attention. Pimlico can use any attention it can get--good or bad. This track has been on the edge of oblivion for awhile and most people here in Baltimore aren't anywhere near as attuned to racing as say folks in Louisville. The activities surrounding the race like hot air balloon races, crab derbies, etc. don't do much to get people interested in the Preakness or horse racing in general.

As you say, there are those who object to the general tenor of the ad. They say it's tawdry and sleazy, but hey, if you're Pimlico, what do you have to lose?

10 May 2010 1:48 PM
chasham

I hope the "David" whose comment appears here was NOT referring to the horrendous "Lori Petty ads" that NTRA inflicted upon the nation years ago! I don't know anybody who could watch that cadaverous creature demonstrate an interest in racing without being turned off and never watch another race!

I agree that racing has not been able to expand the fan base enough to sustain growth, and advertising may be the way to do it, but the ads should not turn away the more mature members of our society!

10 May 2010 1:48 PM
Perplexed

Lets not pretend the infield crowd is at all aware there is a race being run.

A few of them will be introduced to the Baltimore City police and a lot of them to hangovers...but I highly doubt any of them will be back at a track until the next party is held in the infield.

10 May 2010 1:59 PM
JerseyTom

I actually liked the Lori Petty ads. Refereshing compared with the typical stuff. Got people talking. Disliked by the establishment.

10 May 2010 2:26 PM
FourCats

I've always been a big proponent of marketing, customer service, clean facilities and innovative ideas (all of which have been non-existent at almost every track in the country). However, this ad campaign does nothing to promote horse racing or show off this fascinating sport.

It may bring in people looking for a big party, but will not help the industry thrive in the future (and will end up as a big embarrassment). It confirms to me that the people who own the racetracks care almost as little about the future of racing as the state politicians.

10 May 2010 2:44 PM
Pat

I'm sure by next Monday morning the revellers will be telling their friends "I went to the party in the infield during the races and never saw a car all day..."

10 May 2010 4:08 PM
Michael Cusortelli

How many of those 40,000 killing their brain cells with $20 all-you-can-drink beer in the infield on Preakness Day will become racing fans?

My guess is -- none. Not a one. After about an hour, how many of them will even still realize they're at a racetrack?

10 May 2010 4:38 PM
JerseyTom

Don't lose sight of the fact revenue on Preakness Day is huge for the Maryland Jockey Club, with ripple effects for Maryland racing year-round.

10 May 2010 6:22 PM
Kevin A. Burke

Mr. Tom LaMarra,

Please read Mr. Rob Whiteley's (Liberation Farm) article on the Paulick Report. Encourage your fellows at Blood Horse to consider his proposed outline.

A Tea Party Like Movement is in the making. Yourself, and Blood-Horse should be a part of it.

I apologize for being off subject but I believe, I strongly believe the horse, the racing, the history needs all our help now.

Thank You,

Kevin

10 May 2010 6:33 PM
CRob87

On Preakness Day, some of you Stuffy, Old, Fuddy Duddy Cogers need to do 1 of 2 things...

Either...Get Over Yourselves and try to have a little fun in your lives for a day or...

Stay at Home and watch the Preakness on t.v while hiding out in your 1950s Bomb Shelter.

Maybe you can buy a Vowel from Vanna White and get a clue???

Because this campaign sounds like a pretty good thing for the 1 Day Event that the Preakness is.

And who really cares how many of them end up becoming or not becoming Racing fans ???

True, Racing Needs a better campaign for the long run.

But, this campaign was not designed for the long run. It was simply designed for 1 Day Only....Preakness Day !!!

So Please.....Live a little !!!

10 May 2010 7:14 PM
Ida Lee

Wow the beer is going to fly on Preakness Day ... I bet just about now the security team working on Saturday is polishing its tasers...

10 May 2010 7:25 PM
Somethingroyal

I agree with the comments being made about today's youth. I believe they view going to a track to hang out and party. How many remember anything about the races the day after? Yeah, this leaves a real good impression on the industry.

I also agree with Fourcats. I think there is nothing exciting about this ad campaign and it does nothing to promote horse racing. Where is the passion and excitement?  

10 May 2010 7:55 PM
Somethingroyal

CRob87,

Who cares how many of them end up becoming or not becoming Racing fans???

Are you serious??? I think you just exposed youself. Where are the eye-rollers when I need them???

10 May 2010 8:00 PM
olliejay

Just had a young friend of mine, new to the sport of horse racing, go to the Kentucky Derby last weekend. It was his batchelor party, and he and his friends I'm sure partied hardy on the Churchill infield. It was for all of them, their first trip to the track.

Talking to him the following Monday I got the impression he and his friends would be making many trips back, and not just for Derby day. Having been to a couple of derbies ,and always on the infield, I can assure you there are as many horse racing fans on the infield as there is in the stands, and as many obnoxious drunks, only interested in the partying, in the stands as there is on the infield

Horse racing needs to market a good time,with good friends, watching a great sport, no matter the economic level or age of the fan. Get your Preak On!!!!

10 May 2010 11:13 PM
Rachel

Perplexed, you hit the nail on the head when you said "let's not pretend the infield crowd is at all aware there is a race being run." LOL! Maryland racing is trying to survive, I guess naked, happy drunks is one way...

As far as those "Grumpy Old Guard" that David is dissing & wanting to get rid of, well that group carried racing for many a glorious year, including 3 Triple Crown Winners...guess they knew how to breed 'em, train 'em, race 'em and bet 'em! ♥

11 May 2010 6:31 AM
Bill Daly

I've been going to Pimlico for more years than I care to remember and I can testify that there are a lot of beer drinkers there every day. Baltimore has always been a beer drinking town. Babe Ruth's father owned a tavern somewhere on the site currently occupied by Camden Yards. Edgar Allen Poe was reportedly drunk on many occasions while here. In fact, he died in a drunken stupor, I believe. Anther famous drunk associated with Baltimore was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A drunken mob of CSA sympathizers started a riot at the outset of the Civil War when Union troops marched through the city. For a while Baltimore was known as "mobtown." So there is a long, inglorious history of imbibing liquid refreshments right here in good old Baltimore. As the late, great Charley Eckman used to say, "Somebody call me a cab!"

11 May 2010 10:11 AM
Denise Ireland

If you ask Dana Patrick, 34, of West Chester, PA, what her plans are this weekend she will tell you she is "checking into a $300 a night hotel in Inner Harbor on Thursday night, spending Friday in my Preakness hat and Nordstrom sundress at Pimlico's Turfside Terrace - but come Saturday we're going to be all about partying in the Infield. Going to get my Preak on!"

This week we've heard the cry of outrage from traditionalists that say the ad campaign designed for the Maryland Jockey Club to promote the Preakness Stakes this year is offensive, demeans the "sport of kings" and places the focus solely on nothing more than an orgy of misbehavior. But there are plenty of new thoroughbred horse racing fans like Dana who have never spent money on attending a major stakes event such as the Preakness until this year.

Credit the ad campaign? Maybe.

More likely, the explanation is that girls just want to have fun and the Preakness InfieldFest Saturday promises exactly that.

Dana, who happens to be an R.N. at a Philadelphia area hospital, and 10 of her early 30-something girlfriends--some married, but mostly single high-earning women with money to burn and an appetite for excitement--will be road-tripping to Baltimore after work Thursday. They'll be dumping thousands of dollars into the city of Baltimore's economy on four nights of hotel rooms and meals. After spending almost $1,500 on tickets for Preakness events, they will no doubt spend additional thousands wagering and partying at Pimlico on Friday and Saturday.

I'm sure out of 10 women someone will end up spending a bit of money in an Inner Harbor retail store. Is any of this bad or am I just morally bankrupt?

Apparently, this year's Preakness ticket sales are up 100% from last year. Folks like me who loyally attend Triple Crown events year after year don't account for the increase. New fans of thoroughbred racing like Dana and her friends do. And this weekend they will bring with them lots of money to spend on the industry we love so much--and in some cases, feed our families on.

Does anyone have a better explanation than it's the result of the ad campaign and it's promise of a really, really great time at the Preakness?

I am the daughter of a thoroughbred trainer and owner who raced at Pimlico for 20 years. I have four young children. I don't live far from the heart of the ad campaign in Maryland. I've seen the billboards and heard the radio ads. I have kids who are old enough to read, and they barely notice them and I can't remember the last time my older ones didn't have their Ipods on pumping their own brand of commercial free music into their little heads.

I think we're all getting a little carried away with the fears that our children's morals might actually be permanently twisted by one ad campaign. Trust me, your kids are getting more scary ideas about what constitutes a good time from the Disney Channel these days.

As for me, I'd like for the tradition of the Preakness to still be alive in 20 years when my littlest one is old enough to walk the track grounds her grandfather walked. I want her to be able to know the grand Preakness tradition I experienced my whole life.

If 80,000 people "getting their Preak on" at Pimlico one Saturday in May for the next 20 years helps keep the Preakness tradition alive for future generations of thoroughbred race fans, I'm all for it.

If you live in Baltimore and you are so embarrassed about the billboards this weekend, try to focus on the fact that your fellow Baltimore resident who drives a taxi or owns a sandwich shop will earn a little extra for his family from all those "Preaked out" fans this weekend.  

Someone actually wrote that the Maryland Jockey Club's ad campaign is "pathetic" and "desperate." I'd venture to say there will be over 100,000 people at the track and plenty of Baltimore region residents this weekend that don't see it that way.

You are entitled to your opinion. And we are entitled to "Get Our Preak On." My 8-year-old already has her hat picked out, and she can't wait.

11 May 2010 10:33 AM
David

I’ve learned significance of opinion and perception is the one held by those targeted. Those participating in this blog are members of the “choir” and, as such, will continue to enjoy racing.  That said, if an advertising campaign and marketing tactics achieve their stated goal, then it really shouldn’t matter what we think, something Tom was saying in his original piece.

Unless racing is able to somehow reach out to new customers we will talk among an ever-decreasing circle of friends.

11 May 2010 10:41 AM
Glimmerglass

Why must anyone attribute an increase in sales to a lame ad campaign and not the heart of the matter with a a change in alcohol pricing and entry costs? Or the fact the economy is in a better state then it was a year ago?

There is no way that anyone in the greater Baltimore area saw the "Preak On" campaign and thought, "Gosh I totally forgot about the Preakness--let's go." Please.

Any increase with infield attendance will be due to the simple economics: after $20 all you can drink beer mated with a reduced cost of entry. It won't be due to the 'Preak on' which has now offended another part of their audience and tarnished, if only slightly, the event.

11 May 2010 10:52 AM
Larry Ensor

It never ceases to amaze me how some of the politically incorrect of yesteryear now set the standards of today. They forget the indiscretions of their youth and preach "do as I do now not as I did then."

Luckily for them cell phone cameras weren’t around. Me, I haven't forgotten. If I knew then what I know now I would have partied twice as hard. My first Preakness infield was in 1973, I was 17 and it looked no different then it does today. Yes, I was one of many drunks having a blast.

Edgar Winter's hit song Monster was blaring as Secretariat came onto the track. And I can still feel the roar of the crowd. Remember it like yesterday. Sure there were plenty of fellow partiers who could care less about the race, but there were plenty if not more that were well aware that history was being made.

Enough so that we knew we had to make a road trip north to Belmont just to make sure. My father gave me some press box tickets on the one condition that I took off my Grateful Dead T-shirt and dressed appropriately. Which we did. But due to the fact that my hair was quite long the keeper of the gate was not going to let us in and asked how we got the tickets. He happened to know my father and said that my father would not allow his son to look like me.

I produced my library card and he reluctantly gave passage. My friends and I burned a bunch of brain cells that day and far more for a few years after until we finally realized that we had to put on the long pants. And guess what? We all have done pretty well so far.

I have been to the Derby many times since and the Preakness from time to time. Being that I am in the business (racing) and as my father always said this is your office dress appropriately, long pants jacket and tie I have. But there has never been a Derby or Preakness that I have not gazed out to the infield and had the urge to find a phone booth, rip off my Clark Kent, put on my Grateful Dead T-shirt, shorts and sandals, and join in the fun.

Youth is short lived enjoy it while you can. Cause life is long and very real thereafter. So get your Preak On! And that goes to the Old, Stuffy, and Fuddy Duddy's also.

11 May 2010 11:13 AM
Bob

Santa Anita used to do Brewfests all of the time in the infield. After a few years, the younger crowd they were attracting looked like a prison yard. There hasn't been a brew fest at Santa Anita in years. The bottom line was they attracted a bunch of idiots for one day and that was it.

Santa Anita management finally figured that out and decided it made no sense to have them. I am 35 and all of my friends stopped going to the infield for a brewfest about 10 years ago. Once we had more money we started to go to the turf club more and wanted to sit in better areas.

The key to this younger generation push is to give the track a touch of class. All you have to do is go to Del Mar to figure that out. A marketing campaign to generate interest in one day of racing does nothing for the long term success of the industry.  

11 May 2010 2:44 PM
CRob87

Somethingroyal:

Yeah I really exposed myself as a former Owner/Breeder who still LOVES this Sport and who is still young enough at heart to know how to have a fun day at the Track.

Or like others say...Is not too old to know that even a bad day at the Track is still a better day than being at work.

Looks like Somethingroyal will be hiding out in her 1950s Bomb Shelter where the Killjoys belong.

11 May 2010 3:27 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Did some of you forget that we all die? Do you understand that the likelihood of dying increases as we get older?

If you want the great sport of horse racing to survive then you need to get more young people involved with betting on horses. I think you can do that without getting them drunk. But if you have to get them drunk to take advantage of them, then so be it.

Winning at the track, seeing your horse thunder to victory is a much bigger high than alcohol and more addicting so give them free betting tickets. If you don't care about getting young people involved in the sport then I don't get it. Who do you think is going to bet when us older folks are gone? I don't think they allow it in heaven or hell.

Horse racing is better than poker. Have you seen what poker's marketing has done? Young people are playing poker in droves with great enthusiasm. The market is there. Many of them just don't know how exciting horse racing is. They haven't even been exposed to it.

If 10 percent of the new infield drunks are hooked for life on horse racing then it's worth it. So eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you might win a million dollar pick six and ???????  There are many great posts here. To the nurses--have fun and be safe !!!!!

12 May 2010 1:02 AM
Somethingroyal

CRob87,

I wonder how smug and secure you'd feel without the protection of a computer screen? Just keep this in mind young one. You too will be on the other side of the fence, faster than you know it. What goes around comes around. Put that in your cap and smoke it.

12 May 2010 8:45 AM
Zookeeper

I had to google the name to see who "the cadaverous creature" was. The powerful imagery will haunt me until the day I die, so will the pictures I saw when the result of my search came up. Shreeeeek!

12 May 2010 2:37 PM
Zookeeper

Denise Ireland, Larry Ensor,

Great posts! I completely agree with what you guys said and enjoyed the heck out of reading your comments.

BOB,

I don't know which Santa Anita you go to, but mine has a Brew Festival, in the infield, every year. Somehow we all survive the ordeal, even old "fogies" like me who sit in the Club House. As to the Turf Club, you couldn't drag me in there with a bulldozer. Too many snobs looking down their long noses at the "huddled masses" beneath them.

12 May 2010 3:18 PM
Slew

I think everyone should cool it and get your Preak on!..It sounds like a fun time to me. Goooooooo Super Saver...do it again!

12 May 2010 8:03 PM
Aleine

Since when does the city of Baltimore (or "Bal'more as my Baltimore relatives always said it) need a reminder about the Preakness??? No matter how you promote the race, it's an annual event. That's like saying Louisville, Ky., forgot the Kentucky Derby was in town the first Saturday in May. Either you get it or you don't.

Maryland racing IS due for a rise from the ashes kind of awakening in it's horse race industry. Love looking at those old Eddie Arcaro photo op snapshots from Baltimore back in the day.

If you want to talk about the casual...and I do mean "casual" bettors at the track, look a little south of Baltimore, New Kent, VA. The Strawberry Hill races are being held for the first time ever or Preakness Day. The organizers must've given up on April dates as it has traditionally been run.

Ask any drunken female at Colonial Downs that day and her response will be, "What...they have horses here today?" She will exclaim that with a stupid smile. Why bother? is my response to my local track at New Kent. At least there's room inside the building for me to sit and watch the simulcast of the Preakness. The drunken ladies can stay outside in the rain.

Though I was of course not born yet, my Dad had many stories of how he watched the Preakness race in Bal'more- his hometown- from a distance (or maybe he crept into the track) as a young child because, "it was the most exciting thing to see." Fans who don't have that sentiment at heart should tune into basketball on May 15th and make better use of their time. If the Preakness needs a pep rally, then Bal'more should roll up their streets on 5/15/10.

13 May 2010 12:50 PM
CRob87

Somethingroyal:

KMA....

I'm 41...so how old and out of touch are you .....91 ???

Still got a wardrobe from the 70s do you ???

I don't need a computer screen to hide behind, i'll meet you anytime face to face.  

Just come to Beulah Park.

I'll be here waiting for you to coward out !!!

15 May 2010 3:29 PM

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