Media Blitz Under Way With Triple Crown on Line

With the buzz growing ever louder over another potential Triple Crown winner, the racing industry is marshalling its marketing forces to make sure the public at large becomes aware of what's at stake at Belmont Park June 7.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has produced television, radio, and print advertising related specifically to Funny Cide's bid for the Triple Crown. Separate ads have been created for the New York area and for member tracks across the country. The 30-second TV spot features visuals of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Tom Durkin's race calls, along with images of Funny Cide's owners, trainer, and jockey.

"We'll be doing a national promotion tied into the Don Imus radio show," said Keith Chamblin, NTRA senior vice president of marketing and industry relations. "We're also doing added promotion with WFAN radio in New York, with the Mike and the Mad Dog show, which originates from Belmont Park the Friday before the Belmont Stakes. And we've been coordinating teleconferences with officials from NYRA, VISA, NBC, and Triple Crown Productions."

With NBC set to telecast the Belmont Stakes, several tie-ins with the network are possible. Expect to see jockey Jose Santos and some of Funny Cide's ownership team on programs like "The Today Show" and "The Tonight Show."

NBC-owned Telemundo is being approached specifically on the Santos angle, with Spanish-related media in New York and Los Angeles being approached as well. The jockey was slated to throw out the first pitch before the New York Yankee/Boston Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium May 27.

The NTRA is also lending a hand in coordinating access to trainer Barclay Tagg, who proved a tad touchy in his dealings with the media leading up to the Preakness. The plan is to conduct media sessions with Tagg as well as Santos at a specific time each day.

NBC figures to be a big winner in this quest for the Triple Crown, with ratings for the 90-minute Belmont telecast likely to rise at least 50% above levels expected when there is no Triple Crown on the line. NBC catches another break in that there is no stiff competition for viewers during the Belmont timeslot from 5:30-7 p.m.

The NBA finals are scheduled for the preceding and following days. The Belmont telecast will be up against the Kemper Open golf tourney on ABC, which ends just before post time; ladies golf on CBS, which also ends at 6 p.m. ET; and regional baseball games on FOX featuring mid-market teams from Baltimore, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Arizona.

NBC ad salesperson Paul Wilson said in the days after the May 17 Preakness Stakes, only one or two units of advertising time remained to be sold on the Belmont telecast.