Calif. Company Packages Jockeys to Attract Advertisers

A former NFL player turned sports marketing agent is hoping to make jockey advertising in California lucrative through collective bargaining.

R.J. Kors, the chief executive officer and founder of a new company called Jockeys Management Group, has secured the advertising rights for more than 60 California-based jockeys. He intends to sell those rights in packages associated with the racing circuits in Southern California and Northern California, and at Los Alamitos. By offering a group of jockeys rather than one or two marquee riders, a sponsor gets greater exposure and has a greater chance of seeing its name in the winner's circle, says Kors.

"The deals will cover everything from the minute the clients show up at the track," Kors said. "There will be hospitality, jockeys signing autographs on race day, and naming rights for races."

A rule recently adopted by the California Horse Racing Board allows jockeys to wear advertising on their pants, boots, and turtleneck collars. Kors' plan is to sell contracts for the space on the thigh of the pants, the upper back of the pants, the boots, and the collar for one of the three circuits. For example, if XYZ Petroleum buys the thigh space for the Southern California circuit, its name will be worn by Laffit Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux, and David Flores and 20 other riders who have signed 15-month contracts with Jockeys Management Group. Kors' company also has contracts with 22 jockeys in Northern California and 17 riders at Los Alamitos.

Kors expects to see a lot of interest and has priced it accordingly. He anticipates a one-year sponsorship on the Southern California circuit will begin at $1 million, though he hedges by saying he is waiting on the results of a market analysis he's commissioned. The analysis should be done by mid-February.

"We are not going in blind to a sponsor saying this is what we believe it is worth," he said. "We'll have the numbers to back them up. It could be more, it could be less."

How much the jockeys receive from the deals is also undetermined. Kors did say they would all be paid a base rate, then would be eligible for additional money from a bonus pool if they win. Bonus money would be split with the horse owner, Kors said.

Regarding potential conflicts with owners, race sponsors, or television sponsors, Kors said he would try to avoid them by talking first with companies that already sponsor horse racing. "I wonêt say there won't be conflicts," he said. "I want to stress, though, that we want to build up these sponsorships, not tear anything down. We also have to keep in mind that what's essentially been sold so far is horse racing as a product and the jockeys have been given away for free"”

Sponsorships are just the beginning. Kors has a long-range plan to develop a half-hour magazine format television show, similar to "Inside the PGA Tour."