Friday, August 15, 2008

Smokin' Chimneys

My ideal life, as I see it now, will be spent within stone's throwing distance of a big city, tucked away some place on the outskirts where the availability of open land will facilitate my horsey passions. Professionally, this will hopefully lend itself to a career marketing equestrian sports events, products, and players - that is, selling the attributes of prime bloodstock to potential breeders. It is toward this end that I am busy building my career in marketing, working on my graduate degree, and blogging here about relevant industry issues.

The idea of equine sports marketing is unique because you are often selling a product for which there is no acute need. As I peruse horse magazines and contemplate the efficacy of the various ads, I consider the challenge of marketing such a luxury type product as equine sports/ownership, while also differentiating one's brand from the vast realm of competitors. What then are the key components in building an equine marketing campaign? What is it about our connection with and use of horses within our respective industries that gets our advertising attention?

Horses invoke an array of feelings in the owner/breeder/horse person. Some people are plugged in to the therapeutic aspects of horse ownership, the joy and love that can arise bountifully from the bond that develops between horse and human. Others are business oriented, and appreciate not just the passion and majesty of the horse, but the possibility of it providing a lucrative living. And yet a third group of horse person derives status and esteem from their connections with and within the horse industry, and from competing successfully in the upper horse show or racing echelons. There are of course a myriad different ways these types can be combined, and some horse owners are likely all three, while others are none at all, but I see these groups as being core target markets.

Many of the ads that I see as I flip around through my magazines are compelling, but only on one of the above levels. There might be an ad that showcases the bond between horse and human, impressing on its audience the importance of good horse care (utilizing the featured product) as a way to express love and kindness to your animal. Another type of ad might feature a prominent sports horse, and highlight his power and grace to help promote the product, in much the same way that human models are used to market clothes.

But rarely does a campaign market successfully to a collective gut level love of the equine. Rarely does a campaign flawlessly convey the beauty and perfection of the equine form, while also creating an intense desire to be a part of that horse's world and join the esteemed few who posses vital connections with it. when I opened up this week's issue of The Blood Horse, and saw Three Chimney Farm's most recent campaign featuring Big Brown, therefore, I had to gasp at the advertising genius implemented by the farm's marketing team.

I had already intended to explore Three Chimney's inspiring and beautiful ads (overseen by marketing and communications director Jen Roytz) via my marketing blog, but its inception has been delayed and thus I stowed my ideas for later retrieval. With this new campaign however, I have no choice but to begin writing in professional praise of the creative team that developed this whole group of ads. In all of Three Chimneys previous ads, I have been struck by two significant elements: first their simplicity in layout, color scheme and design, and second their effectiveness in showcasing the exact elements of the breeding stock that would best bring their target customer to their front barn door.

The Three Chimneys ads have always featured the same general idea: blue and tan block color scheme, sepia toned print of the featured horse displaying him in some moment of glory or grandeur, and a short, often ironic paragraph that explains the horse's significant achievement.
But in this week's Blood Horse there is a brand new Big Brown/ Three Chimneys campaign that really struck me. I wonder if they have enlisted a new ad manager, as these ads have done away in part with the traditional neutral color scheme and make use of full vibrant colors. There is a fantastic meld with Big Brown and the misty background from which he's charging, and the power and dominance of that horse are showcased to the hilt. Additionally, there is a great play across the page, as you follow the word BIG with your eyes, to land inimitably on the horse BROWN in the flesh. Overall, you can really feel the excitement of owning a stake in this horse, or of owning one of his first babies.
This is what successful equine sports marketing looks like. And what a horse who is now in many respects his own brand can provide in terms of marketing potential. Three Chimneys, if you are looking, I'm available! :)

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