Smith: A Brand For Racing Is 'Permission to Believe'

Brand equity will give Thoroughbred racing a legitimate shot at winning the interest of the public and sponsors, National Thoroughbred Racing Association commissioner Tim Smith said May 2 during the Warner L. Jones Distinguished Lecture sponsored by the University of Louisville.

Smith, in a presentation he called "Marketing 101," said brands are far more important than actual products, because they have "tradition, history, and personality. My own definition of a brand is permission to believe."

Smith said Thoroughbred racing needed more televised product, promotions, and big racing days. He pointed to April 13 of this year as proof of success. Several Kentucky Derby prep races were televised on ESPN and NBC, and ratings were up; a Mystery Mutuel Voucher promotion that afternoon in 17 markets produced double-digit attendance and handle gains at racetracks; and more than $22 million was wagered in total on the Aqueduct program that day.

The NTRA and Breeders' Cup announced April 29 that Long John Silver's, the seafood restaurant chain, had signed on as sponsor of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Smith said sponsors are easier to land when a product is well-received by other companies.

"It's good to be visible, but better to be there in the company of other prestigious brands," Smith said.

Smith also said the deal between the horse racing industry and ESPN for televised product through 2008 is a sign Thoroughbred racing is building brand equity. "We're communicating another important message to sponsors," he said. "We're stable, and we're for real."

The Warner L. Jones Distinguished Lecture is held each year. Harriet Jones, wife of the late Churchill Downs leader, was on hand for the brunch.