Two of marketer Seth Godin's books - Tribes and Purple Cow - are important works on understanding today's world. In Purple Cow, he writes a thesis about doing one thing well, and being remarkable as it can build a brand or a business. In Tribes, he relays the fact that anyone or anything can lead a tribe, and the spin-offs of such a movement can grow to build a brand, event or idea.

I was struck this week with the election of Mayor in the city of Toronto. Early on, the winner - Rob Ford - was chastised by many for not being broad enough or having all the 'big ideas'. The press seemed to dismiss him as he stuck to his one message over and over again - taxpayer respect. But over time this one simple message (while the other candidates tried to be everything to everyone with myriad ideas) stuck. His followers trumpeted that one simple message on twitter, facebook, to the print and electronic press - to whomever would listen. He won the Mayoral race in a shocking landslide.

His win was not at all surprising to marketers though, or those who follow Mr. Godin's books. Because it works.

We have some of this occurring in racing. Keeneland is having another successful meet and one thing Keeneland does well is know who they are. They focus on that one simple idea - a great, fun, wonderful day at the track - and they do not try to be everything to everyone. They have built a tribe of followers who brand their event and promote their event for them. Saratoga is not too dissimilar, and neither is Del Mar. The Horseplayers Association, of whom I am a member, focuses laser-like on one major item - takeout. For a small organization with no money and a leadership team of only four or five volunteers (with real jobs outside of it), this is Godin-esque, and the only way to grow, brand and get noticed for a fledgling group.

The Breeders Cup has been a bit of a mish-mash in their focus over the years - and this is not a criticism or any fault of the management there - it is just the way it is. Horse's are not very well known, and the event is not at all like a Super Bowl or World Series or a Ryder Cup. It simply does not have that one laser-focused item to use to grow, like so many other events. This year, however, they have it and they are not dropping the ball on the gift.

Her name is Zenyatta.

No horse in modern horse racing history has cut across demographic lines like she does (she is an Oprah "mover and shaker for 2010", for gosh sakes). No horse is more well-known by casual and non-casual fans alike. If you ask a casual fan on the street, he/she knows that the mare won the BC last time, and was the first "girl" to do so. When they see her name this year, trying to do it again, they are stoked to watch - and they tell people. On the flip-side, the speed fig guys and gals seem to want to see her prove them right - she is not fast enough on dirt and she will be more overbet than Dewey versus Truman. The Zenyatta "tribe" is alive and well.

For the latter fans, this years Breeders Cup marketing might make you scream - it's all Z all the time. But they are not speaking to you and me. We are going to watch already and have formed an opinion on the dirt sprint for example, by watching replays over and over of the contenders - contenders of which the casual fan would know less-of than they know of quantum physics.

Ongoing we will see more things like this:
  • Press Releases focusing on her. Other horses will be talked about, but she will headline
  • More commercials for the event in places like before the Secretariat movie focusing on her
  • Facebook chatter on her facebook page, which has more fans than most humans
  • A 60 minutes interview
  • More visits from the Terrell Owens' of the world
  • More headlines on prop bets and assorted gambling bets on offshore books, with special deals attached
  • Head to toe, wall to wall Z coverage from October 31st, through November 7 with webcams and more
After seeing what we have, and what we will see, you might think that the other horses are being ignored. They are not being ignored, as the trade press, handicappers, the DRF, Breeders Cup 360 will be talking about all of them. The Breeders Cup has them as one "tribe" doing what they do, so there is no need for overkill, or wasted limited resources. The only tribe the BC needs to focus on from here on out is the Zenyatta tribe. She will deliver the coveted mainstream media and casual fans that the BC and horse racing in general can only dream about.

By staying focused on this big mare and her tribe, it will make this a very big Breeders Cup.


o_crunk said...

What is your definition of "big"?

IMHO - I don't think the marketing push w/ Z moves the needle much as far as ratings, handle, attendance, etc - any measurable way.

Pull the Pocket said...


I am focusing on TV ratings for the most part. I believe this year the ratings will be very high, when compared to previous years. TV ratings do not shake the foundations of racing, but they do allow for some brand building and allow (perhaps) better TV deals to be negotiated in the future.

I feel there is a pretty huge buzz happening right now and I think it will pay off. Come back and get me in a couple of weeks when I am off base and you are on target :)


The_Knight_Sky said...

>> Keeneland is having another successful meet


"another" ?

It's been while since they've been made like gangbusters. But the midwest signals seem to have benefited from the continued mismanagement out in California.

With the bar has being lowered by Keeneland over the past several years, they have found there's nowhere to go but up.

That's what's happening in Lexington and at Hawthorne this autumn.

o_crunk said...

I can get on board with a modest increase. But we're talking about ratings last year that were .60/NA. There's a floor here to those type of numbers.

It's kinda like buying at the very low, bottom of the market, no? Or are you just saying the worst is over from here on out?

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi O,

I am looking for blowout numbers, quite honestly. I am not sharp or anything on conversion rates from promo pieces, but I figure we are looking at a 5% conversion rate from 60 minutes. That is 14 million viewers, or 700k that might watch the Classic. ESPN is pumping this like no horse race they ever have and I figure there will be a bump there. Add to that the casual fans who are aware of the Classic and Z, and I think we'll see something.

We'll c.



Carryovers Provide Big Reach and an Immediate Return

Sinking marketing money directly into the horseplayer by seeding pools is effective, in both theory and practice In Ontario and elsewher...