Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cross promotion as a boost to racing's fan base?

As we all know by now, Zenyatta made history this past weekend with her sterling win against the boys in Saturday's Breeder's Cup Classic (gr. 1). It was her 14th consecutive win, and with it Queen Zenyatta earned the honor of being the only female to have bested the males on the Classic stage. Her greatness and legend are now unparalleled, and the only horse with any potential to steal her thunder for 2009 Horse of the Year honors is Princess Rachel Alexandra.

Zenyatta will likely be retired after this year's Classic, but that hasn't stopped the horsey set in Miami from clamoring for a match up between the monstrous mare and her feminine filly counterpart. Ken Dunn, the president of Gulf Stream Park, has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge Zenyatta and Rachel to meet on that field February 6th in the Donn Handicap (gr. 1), held only one day before the Super Bowl goes off at the Dolphins' Landshark Stadium. This brings up an interesting query in light of the fact that this year's Breeder's Cup TV viewership failed to increase its numbers over last year. Should horse racing be cross promoted to reach a more sizeable audience?

For many sports fans, horse racing only enters the viewing consciousness during the Triple Crown, while most of the year's other races are populated by the "die hards." Several people I talked to after the Breeder's Cup had no knowledge of either Zenyatta's previous acclaim or the fact that she had done the impossible by beating a field of seasoned, champion males at the sport's highest level. Would horse racing's competitions be helped or hindered if they were timed to pair up with other notable sports events? Would their audience be diversified or poached by the partner sport with the double billing? From a marketing and sponsorship perspective, having the year's two greatest female Thoroughbreds go head to head on the same weekend as the year's two greatest football teams seems like a winning proposition. Which other of the year's notable races could have been cross promoted to improve fanship and awareness?

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