Marketing Chief: Plug in to Internet, E-Mail

The vice president of marketing for SportsLine.com has some advice for the Thoroughbred industry: The Internet and other electronic communications reach your target audience, so use them to your advantage.

You may be yawning, but don't fall asleep. Sure, the industry employs the Internet, but judging from some comments made during the second day of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Marketing Summit in Las Vegas, Nev., it may have only scratched the surface.

"There has never been a vehicle as targeted as the Internet," said Larry Kruguer, the SportsLine.com executive who served as the Marketing Summit's keynote speaker Tuesday. "It's even reached the point where I try not to produce anything on paper anymore in the office."

Kruguer discussed use of the Internet and e-mail to drive database marketing for the Thoroughbred industry. Among SportsLine.com's partners are CBS, AOL Time Warner, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, Netscape, and Excite.

Kruguer, who at one time worked for American Express, said strategic alliances are critical, and that customers seek a more personalized experience. He said racing is ripe for growth because the uneducated are seeking answers and information.

"I can tell you the core audience on the Internet is people ages 18 to 34," Kruguer said. "Your audience is right on the hot spot."

Kruguer's presentation was titled "E-Marketing: Leveraging the Power." He said racetracks, for instance, must first decide what they want to accomplish, and then develop a strategy. It could be brand awareness, just providing information, selling products, or a mix of those objectives. If a target audience is found, electronic correspondence can be more than just junk mail, he said.

"There's no question e-mail marketing is the wave of the future," Kruguer said. "If you're getting something from someone you know, you're going to open it up...There's got to be a win-win situation. You may be able to leverage that in the long run to make money and build relationships."

The NTRA on Tuesday released general information on its Mystery Mutuel Voucher promotion, the first of which will be held July 28. The program involves mailings to households in certain markets, but Kruguer suggested use of the Internet and e-mail to facilitate the promotion.

"I would definitely apply that (to electronic correspondence)," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of people always looking for steals and deals."

The first Mystery Mutuel Voucher promotion had an 8% redemption rate, or twice the national average. About a million households in 32 markets received vouchers. The million-dollar voucher wasn't cashed, but NTRA officials said it was mailed out to someone on Mountaineer Park's list. Though the West Virginia track registered a 525% bump in attendance that day, no one from the household that received the "winner" was on hand to collect.

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