Dan Liebman

Dan Liebman Editor-in-Chief

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Commentary: To Market

There were many longtime industry participants at Monmouth Park Oct. 26-27 for the first Breeders’ Cup World Championships spread over two days. But perhaps more importantly, there was a newcomer to the sport intently watching the goings on.

Peter Land was hired Oct. 1 as the chief marketing officer of Breeders’ Cup, and while most personnel moves are not in themselves necessarily “big” news, this announcement might fall under that category heading.

This particular hiring is noteworthy because Land, though a seasoned sports and entertainment marketing veteran, is an industry outsider. That’s right; this is the first job in racing for the man who will direct the marketing of racing’s biggest event, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, stakes program, and foal and stallion nominations. That he has no background in racing is, in this case, a good thing.

The editor of a racing publication once said if he had to choose between a job candidate who knew racing but could not write, and a writer who knew little about racing, he wouldn’t hesitate in his decision.

“I can teach you about the industry, but I can’t teach you to write,” he said.

Breeders’ Cup officials made a conscious decision that the time was right to not only create this new position, but hire someone to fill it who knows marketing without knowing racing, and that is a smart move for many reasons.

Land, 46, brings a wealth of experience to the job, most recently working as the global managing director of Edelman, a well-known public-relations firm for which he managed the sports, sponsorship, and multi-cultural divisions. From 1993-98, he was director of marketing for the National Basketball Association.

As everyone knows, the three “big” sports are football, basketball, and baseball. So, Land has worked in marketing for a sport that has done an excellent job in marketing itself, in particular to a younger audience.

But it should also be noted that while at Edelman, among his clients was the New York Road Runners. While it is unlikely there is anyone that believes Thoroughbred racing has done a good job of promoting itself over the years, most would hope we are better positioned than marathon running.

Well, we’re never going to be an NFL, NBA, or MLB, so it doesn’t hurt to learn what is working for other lower-tiered sports, even marathoning. During a chat at Monmouth Park, Land noted there is now a World Marathon Majors, a championship-style competition that began in 2006 and awards points for finishes in marathons in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City, as well as the IAAF World Championships Marathon (in odd-numbered years) and Olympic Games Marathon (years evenly divisible by four). The series consists of each race over two-year periods that overlap, with the male and female points leaders at the end of the competition each receiving $500,000.

“While they compete for runners, they realized they needed to work together to elevate the sport,” Land said. “We should ask, ‘What can we learn from that?’ ”

Land knows what questions need to be asked, and he is determined to help find the answers. He understands, for instance, that the product is the horses, that we must attract more young people, should work to expand digital opportunities, and, of course, grow exposure.

A key, Land said, is the alignment with ESPN, which has the audience demographics racing seeks. “We both have a mission to reach younger audiences.”

Nothing can grow racing more than appealing to the 17- to 25-year-olds, who are brand conscious and are already hooked on digital platforms.

As Land pointed out, few will watch a three-hour baseball game online, but a horse race takes only a couple of minutes.

It is time to market the sport in those increments.