CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Churchill Downs has tapped Cramer-Krasselt, New York, to assist it with an ambitious branding, licensing and communications agenda for the Kentucky Derby brand.
It's the first time the horseracing giant has tapped a national agency, having previously worked with local shops in each of the four cities where it owns race tracks. "We've mostly focused on getting the local market to come to the track more often," said Dave Tompkins, senior VP-marketing. "But as we compete more against other sports and other forms of gaming, we felt we needed to leverage this great brand with a national strategy."
Independent C-K prevailed in a review process that included 20 agencies, ranging from large global networks to small local shops. Mr. Tompkins said he was won over, in part, by the agency's case studies with clients Corona ("they've helped it become a lifestyle brand") and Colonial Williamsburg, which he said has confronted the challenge of changing its image as a place a person only needs to visit once in his life.
He also said one of C-K's first assignments will be to help Churchill Downs prioritize a long list of marketing and licensing initiatives being considered to bolster the Derby's credentials as a lifestyle brand.
Other Derby projects
Last year, a website built around Kentucky Derby parties -- it offers Evite-style invitations, sells branded party goods and even helps take bets -- was launched.
And Mr. Tompkins said the Derby is in talks with several Las Vegas casino operators about a possible Derby-day experience in an area casino, complete with Derby-branded slots, fashion (all those great hats) and, of course, Mint Juleps. Playboy and Disney have struck similar deals in Sin City.
The brand also has plans to cooperate with an undisclosed Derby sponsor on a series of branded bar- and nightclub events, among dozens of other ideas. "(C-K) had a really good process to help us assess and prioritize within a larger brand strategy," Mr. Tompkins said.
C-K's public-relations arm is also expected to be heavily involved in the assignment.
The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are a unique part of our American culture that have continued to evolve over their 134-year history and are still relevant to consumers today," said Deb Radman, senior VP-director of C-K's public relations operation, in a statement. "We look forward to helping Churchill Downs Incorporated further define its overall brand strategy for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, help grow the entertainment value of both events and broaden their demographic reach through a variety of brand initiatives that will launch in early 2009 and lead up to the 'Run for the Roses' on the first Saturday in May."