When Kent Desormeaux heads to the starting gate aboard Big Brown in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), viewers won't see the lone UPS logo that was prominently placed on the jockey's pants in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Instead, Desormeaux will bear not only the UPS symbol, but also Hooters' orange logo, as the popular restaurant chain represtented by an owl peering through the "OO" in its name becomes his second official sponsor.
Hooters, best known for its busty servers, picked up the sponsorship deal for the Belmont for an undisclosed fee. Until the Hooters partnership was announced, UPS was the exclusive sponsor of IEAH Stables' unbeaten Kentucky Derby and Preakness winnner.
"UPS wanted to be the exclusive sponsor and we offered them every possible way to do [that], and they basically turned it down," Kelly Wietsma, public relations manager for Desormeaux and IEAH, told the Daily News.
Contrary to previously published reports, no Hooters girls will join Big Brown in the winner's circle should he win the Triple Crown.
"Reports of a corporate Hooters presence on the grounds and winners’ circle at Belmont Park are in error,” said Gavin Landry, a spokesman for the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which runs Belmont Park. “The reported sponsorship with Hooters has no contractual basis in fact with NYRA."
But Hooters does plan to throw pre-race parties at locations across the country, and will contribute to a fund set up by Desormeaux to aid those affected by Usher syndrome, which impacts the jockey's son, Jacob.
A UPS spokesman said the latest Big Brown sponsorship deal did not affect his company's enthusiasm for the horse.
"Nothing has changed for us," said Norman Black, UPS director of global media services. "This is a great time for UPS. Everyone knows that this horse is named after our company and it’s created a great deal of pride and excitement within our company and among our customers. It’s not surprising that there are other commercial activities involved, but we’re still very excited about supporting this horse and Kent Desormeaux as they go for the Triple Crown."
Calls to Wietsma and IEAH co-chairman and co-president Michael Iavarone regarding this article were not immediately returned.